Officers solved 27 per cent of crimes last year despite the fact overall crime fell to its lowest level for more than two decades.
The rate is the lowest since 2006-07 and means criminals responsible for up to three million offences escaped justice.
The figures were published on the Home Office website at the same time that ministers were heralding separate statistics that showed dramatic falls in crime.
It suggests that police performance is deteriorating even though there are fewer offences being committed.
Critics said the police should be clearing up a greater proportion of crimes as total offences fell, and warned that victims would lose confidence in the criminal justice system.
Figures published on Thursday showed that the overall number of crimes committed fell by four per cent in 2011-12 to 3.97â€‰million, the lowest number since 1989.
A separate Home Office document shows that, during the same year, police solved 1,075,927 offences. One in seven burglaries was solved and fewer than half of the perpetrators of violent offences were caught.
Only a fifth of robberies were cleared up and three in 10 sexual offences.
Police had more success with drug offences, of which 92 per cent were solved.
The decline meant that the total number of crimes solved fell by seven per cent last year, almost twice the rate at which overall crime fell.
Staffordshireâ€™s Deputy Chief Constable, Douglas Paxton, a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: â€œGood policing has always relied on officers using their common sense and discretion.
“Used appropriately, that can allow the police to resolve incidents speedily and effectively, to the satisfaction of victims, without a formal process leading to a sanction detection.â€
Other figures on Thursday showed the number of murders and other killings fell to a 30 year low of 550 last year.
Police solved 522 of those â€” or 95 per cent. However, the low success rates for investigations of break-ins meant burglars responsible for more than 430,000 crimes escaped justice last year.
Police fail to solve three in four crimes