MORE police officers on the beat and improved co-operation with China have led to an encouraging drop in violent crime, it was claimed yesterday. Figures released yesterday showed overall violent crime down 5.8 per cent for the first nine months of the year to 13,104 incidents. Overall, Hong Kong's crime rate has fallen one per cent to 61,922 cases compared to the same period last year. There was a significant reduction in the use of firearms in robberies and goldsmiths and watch shops were being abandoned by criminals in favour of banks, the report showed. The number of bank robberies rose from 75 in the first nine months of 1992 to 90 in the same period this year. There was encouraging news in the battle against motor vehicle crime, with the number of cases down 26.2 per cent to 3,630 cases. While blackmail was reported down from 643 known cases to 606, criminal intimidation shot up by 27.2 per cent to 477 incidents. A total of 10,297 burglaries were reported to the police, a rise of 2.8 per cent on last year's first nine months. Indecent assaults were down from 844 to 792 for the first three-quarters of the year, while rapes remained steady at 84 from 85. Justein Wong Chun, a member of the Fight Crime Committee, said the figures were encouraging and in part due to a decision last year to put more officers on the beat. ''I think the reduction in the rate for violent crime is a direct result of more police patrolling the streets, especially in areas like Tsim Sha Tsui, Central and Mongkok,'' he said. ''Redeployment, new recruits and a bigger show of police presence in certain areas has helped deter some of the more violent crimes.'' Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Eric Lockeyear said closer links with Chinese authorities had been rewarded with a significant drop in motor vehicle crime and armed robberies. He said close work between Hong Kong and China had resulted in fewer gangs coming across the border to take part in serious crimes. ''The reason is closer co-operation with China,'' he said. ''There is now a better exchange of information, and improved Interpol links. All these things have made a difference. ''The decrease in the theft of vehicles, many of which were destined for China, is attributable to this liaison.'' But John Vagg, a lecturer in criminology at Hong Kong University, said little should be made of the figures. ''Crime rates in Hong Kong have remained steady since the mid-80s so there's not a lot to be read into these figures,'' he said. ''Armed robberies tend to go in cycles of seven or eight years and we are starting to come out of this latest wave. ''There is also a wave between banks and goldsmiths depending on which are considered easier to rob.'' He said motor vehicle crime figures indicated success in tackling the smuggling to China. But there were still areas which could be improved, he said. ''As far as rapes and sexual assaults are concerned, it is accepted around the world that only between two and five per cent of victims come forward for all sorts of psychological reasons, such as having to give evidence in court. ''The police are getting better at dealing with these cases but it will still take some time before that percentage starts to increase.'' He said he was still concerned about the underlying situations, such as triad activity, which concerned communities but did not show up in police statistics.