The spiralling costs of rural crime

SBSR Paul Wheelhouse, Christine Graham and Chief Superintendent Gill Imery discuss rural crime
SBSR Paul Wheelhouse, Christine Graham and Chief Superintendent Gill Imery discuss rural crime
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The contrasting trends between so-called youth incidents and rural crime in the Borders were among the topics discussed when local SNP MSPs Christine Grahame and Paul Wheelhouse, who is also Scottish Government Minister for Community Safety, met divisional police commander Gill Imery.

In the course of a wide-ranging meeting, which also touched on community justice and drugs and alcohol related crimes, Ms Grahame and Mr Wheelhouse were made aware of a marked increase in the value of items stolen from farms and other rural premises in the region.

A presentation compiled by Chief Superintendent Imery showed the thefts are frequently perpetrated by opportunist thieves and organised gangs, often travelling to the Borders from outwith the area.

The loss to owners has spiralled from around £146,000 in 2012/13 to around £347,000 last year.

Ms Grahame, who chairs the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, and Mr Wheelhouse, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, were told of various police initiatives aimed at thieves who preyed on rural properties. These include forensic security marking and the SB Alert Messaging System.

The MSPs were also briefed on police numbers in the J Division area, the former Lothian & Borders police force area. Chief Superintendent Imery said the division had a similar number of officers (922) to when she took up post over two years ago.

Ms Grahame and Mr Wheelhouse welcomed a sizeable drop in youth incidents with an accompanying significant downward trend in incidents involving alcohol.

Commenting on the meeting, Ms Grahame said: “It was extremely useful to talk face to face with Chief Superintendent Imery and get her perspective on policing in the Scottish Borders. It is an issue which many of my constituents take a keen interest in. The figures relating to police numbers were very assuring.”

According to Mr Wheelhouse: “It was pleasing to hear of the reduction in youth crime incidents across the Borders. It is often too easy to paint a picture which unfairly portrays all young people as a problem rather than the asset they are for our future.

“On rural crime, clearly the theft of quad bikes, farm machinery and, particularly, the loss of livestock can be both distressing and financially damaging for our local farmers.

“The discussion with Chief Superintendent Imery and CID colleagues was very helpful in also setting out how Police Scotland is responding to such challenges. Hopefully action being taken by police, allied to close co-operation from the agricultural community, will combine to beat the thieves - but it is absolutely essential these crimes are reported so Police Scotland can assess their impact and target its resources where those are most needed.”