By Dominic Casciani
Complicated rules govern how police record incidents
The British Crime Survey and police-recorded figures show a 7% fall in crimes in 2009 compared with 2008.
All main categories of crime were down, except sexual offences, which were up by 2%, according to the police figures.
The British Crime Survey found that muggings were down 21% over the year and burglary and vandalism also fell.
The numbers show that violent crime technically rose by 1%, but officials who calculate the figures say that it was not statistically significant.
The government uses two main measures of crime in England and Wales - actual offences recorded by the police and the BCS, which is a rolling survey of 45,000 people's experiences of crime, whether or not they reported the incident.
According to the BCS figures for the calendar year to the end of 2009, burglary fell 12%, vandalism 12% and vehicle-related theft 11%.
Recorded crime by the police shows recorded violence fell by 3% and drugs offences were down 4%.
Police forces also recorded an 11% drop in criminal damage and a 5% fall in muggings and robberies.
Domestic burglary went down 3% and there was a 16% drop in offences against vehicles, which includes attempting to break into a car.
Provisional figures included in the report show a 3% fall in gun-related crime recorded by the police in the year to December 2009. Firearms offences accounted for less than 1% of all crime.
Overall, police recorded 4.4 million crimes, down from almost 4.8m a year before.
Chief Constable Keith Bristow, the lead spokesman on crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the figures showed that police and local community safety partnerships were working.
"These overall results are positive and a strong indication of the dedication of our workforce to keep the public safe.
"We continue also to work towards helping people feel safer and more confident in the neighbourhoods where they live, through a visible and responsive police service that tackles the challenges which matter to people."
Experts in sexual offences believe that recent rises may be down to more women being prepared to contact police after they have been attacked.
The figures show that the risk of being a victim of crime remains historically low at 22%. The number of people who said the police were doing a good or excellent job rose from 53% to 56%.
The figures also show that the number of people who believe they are suffering from a "high level" of anti-social behaviour has fallen from 17% to 15%, the lowest figure since the measure was introduced almost a decade ago.
In effect, that meant that fewer people were complaining about abandoned cars, rowdiness or drunken behaviour in public places, drug dealing, gangs of teenagers, litter and vandalism. There was a slight rise in the number of people complaining about noisy neighbours.