Rome, December 29 - As many as 4.5 million civil claims are waiting to be settled by Italy's judicial system despite a significant reduction in the backlog, while crimes such as burglary are booming and prison overcrowding remains "a plague" in many regions according to the justice, crime and security 2015 yearbook released Tuesday by the Istat State-run statistics institute. While total crime increased slightly, murders and other violent crime by organised crime hitmen and others was sharply down. The civil case backlog fell by 3.1% in 2013 in tribunal courts and by 9.6% in courts of appeal. Nevertheless as many as 4,501,021 first-level civil cases were waiting to be heard, a reduction on average of just 3.3% compared to 2012. The most backed-up courts were the tribunals with 3,157,893 proceedings on stand-by (70.2% of the total), followed by magistrates' courts with 1,296,075 files waiting to be heard (28.8% of the total) and courts of appeal with 47,053 cases pending (1% of the total). The TAR regional administrative tribunals are less backed up but cases still take four years on average for a case to be decided. The peak of 671,288 appeal cases waiting to be heard in 2008 has therefore been halved with 298,221 cases waiting to be heard at the end of 2013. The average time for a case to be heard fell to 3.8 years compared to 9.6 years in 2008. Recession-related judicial cases also remained high with the number of bad cheques protested in 2014 down by 22.9% compared to 2013 though their total value hit as much as two billion euros, equivalent to the increase in public spending on security and culture decided by the government of Premier Matteo Renzi after the Paris terrorist attacks. As many as 20% of bankruptcy trials are shelved while still being handled by the public prosecutor's office because they time out, the Istat yearbook added. Out of nearly 3 million criminal offenses, recorded crimes against property, mainly vandalism, increased in 2013 while violent crime fell in Italy. In all there were 2,892,155 criminal offenses, or 48 for every 1000 inhabitants, denounced to the judiciary by the police forces, an increase of 2.6% compared to 2012. The number of murders fell by 4.9% including mafia style murders (down 23.5%). Also down were attempted murders by 7.9%, malicious wounding (down 4.6%), sexual violence denunciations (down 4.3%) and exploitation and aiding and abetting prostitution (down 10.4%). Fraud and computer fraud were up sharply by 20.4%, robberies were up 2.6% and thefts up 2.2% while burglaries in homes were up as much as 48.6% between 2010 and 2013, Istat said. Criminals remained predominantly men. Out of a total of 300,381 people put on the criminal record in 2014 82.2% of those convicted of crimes were men, as well as 96.5% of murderers and 92.3% of those convicted of drug offenses. Use of punishments alternative to prison remained stable with 25,756 people entrusted to social services or in semi-liberty or house detention at the end of 2014, an increase of 1.7% compared to the previous year. In all 53,623 people were in prison at the end of 2014, 9,000 less than in 2013, a reduction of 14.3% while as of November 30, 2015, there were 52,636 people in prison, according to the ministry of justice. The trend was due to "greater access to alternative measures" and the "strong limitation on prison entry for minor crimes," ISTAT said. Between December 2010 and the end of 2014, in all 15,814 inmates were released to house arrest. Nearly one prison inmate in three (32.6%) is a foreigner, one in four is a drug addict and 27.1% have jobs, mainly for the prison administration. The index of prison crowding (the relationship between inmates present and beds available) declined sharply in 2014, from 131 in 2013 to 108. However geographically there were only eight regions with an index of less than 100. The worst region for prison overcrowding was Puglia with 138 inmates for each 100 regular prison beds, followed by Lombardy, Friuli-Venice Giulia and the Veneto with scores of from 129 to 127, Istat said.