Coronavirus lockdown restrictions are likely to have contributed to a 5% drop in police recorded crime between February and March, figures show.

The Office for National Statistics data provides the first official indication of how measures taken to curb the pandemic may have helped to curtail some offending.

The level of police recorded crime in the first quarter of the year (January to March) was 1% lower than that for the same period for 2019.

There were 379,246 crimes recorded in March, excluding fraud, which was a fall of 5% from February to the lowest monthly level seen in that 12-month period to the end of March.

This was an 11% reduction in police recorded crime compared with March 2019.

By contrast, January and February 2020 both saw a rise in police recorded crime compared with 2019, with increases of 4% and 6% respectively, the ONS said.

Between February and March this year there was a 15% drop in thefts to 124,706 offences, a 14% fall in sexual offences to 11,655 and a 14% decrease in robbery offences to 5,795.

The ONS report said: “These reductions are likely to have been influenced by the restrictions imposed as part of lockdown.”

Sophie Sanders, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said overall crime rates were lower in the months leading up to the outbreak compared with early 2019, but before lockdown crime increased.

She added: “This has been driven, largely, by a rise in high-volume offences including violence without injury, stalking and harassment, and fraud and computer misuse, which, apart from the latter, have been influenced by improvements in recording practices.”

Separate figures released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) on Friday show police recorded crime, excluding fraud, in England and Wales was down 14% in the four weeks to July 5, compared with the same period last year.

The provisional data shows most crime types rising back towards their pre-lockdown levels as restrictions have been eased, the NPCC said.

Next month the ONS will publish the first analysis of crime figures during the pandemic.