West Midlands Police yesterday claimed it was the victim of its own success as new figures showed recorded crime had fallen - but detections were also down.

The end-of-year statistics revealed burglary and vehicle crime at their lowest for a quarter of a century. The number of robberies was also the lowest for six years, while gun crime and violent offences also fell.

But the detection rate was also down, by three per cent to 22 per cent.

Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Hyde said the force's concentration on crime prevention was one of the factors which impacted on detection rates.

"The detection rate from our point of view is the percentage of crimes that led to somebody being cautioned, convicted and prosecuted," he said.

" This has fallen very slightly but we are trying to make sure that crime goes down and I think people would rather have no crime at all then have a crime committed.

"Our biggest energy has been in crime reduction and to make sure it doesn't happen in the first place so in a way the lower detection rates are a symbol that we have been the victims of our own success.

"Take young offenders for example. The difficulty is that every success we have means less show up in our detection rates because we are diverting them away from a life of crime.

"We have very vigorous and ethical methods of detection and set ourselves the highest possible standards.

"We will not record something until it comes back from court whereas other forces will record it as a detection from the point it has been signed for by the defendant.

"We want to reach a detection rate of 26 per cent next year and will be working very closely with the CPS to achieve that goal."

Overall crime fell by

13.4 per cent to just under 300,000, the second lowest figure since 1990. It meant there were 45,449 fewer victims of crime in the region in 2004/ 05 compared with 2003/04.

Mr Hyde said: "I'm very pleased with the figures, they represent some terrific and very focused police work by us over the last 12 months and it shows that people are taking our advice on issues such as home safety and street robbery.

"I'd like to think the message about gun crime is also getting through. We have had some great successes on that front and we have had a downturn in these offences which has been as a a result of some very hard work on our part."

However, he said the force still had to work on tackling domestic and alcohol-related violent crime especially in Birmingham city centre.

"There has been a fairly marginal increase in violent crime in Birmingham but we still have a long way to go with the licensing trade to keep crime down in places like Broad Street in terms of making it a much more enjoyable and safer place to be," he said.

"In the next 12 months we want to make sure robberies stay down because they are the benchmark by which the public judge our performance and feel safe on the streets.

"We are also aiming to increase the number of arrests we make in terms of domestic violence and want to see a decrease in drink-related violence in and around pubs and clubs in the region."