Region’s crime levels up 12% on last year, figures reveal

Police Scotland.
Police Scotland.

Recorded crime has risen by 12% in the Borders, figures released by Police Scotland this week reveal.

The increase, the third largest recorded by the country’s 32 local authorities, saw the region’s recorded crime total hit 3,448 for the 2017-18 period.

That’s the second consecutive year that crime rates have risen in the Borders.

The largest increase was seen in sexual crimes, up 26%, followed by crimes of dishonesty, up 10%, and wilful fire-raising and vandalism, up 7%.

Non-sexual crimes of violence were down, but there was a marked increase in the number of car thefts, housebreaking and fraud over the last year.

Scottish Borders Council’s safer communities board chairman, hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull, said an increase in historical sex crimes being reported could have had a bearing on this year’s figures.

“We have been working hard with partners to enhance confidence of victims in the police and the support organisations that we work in partnership to report crimes, and this is translating into a lot of historical crimes being reported to us, which is a real positive for the work that has been done to encourage reporting,” he said.

“We have had reports of offences dating back nearly 20 years at times.

“There was an increase in housebreakings created by a travelling criminal group, but you will note the increase in detections which came from the interventions we made to detect these crimes.

“We have also seen an increase in thefts by shoplifting, but we have continued to maintain a significant detection rate for these crimes.”

Superintendent Craig Smith, of the Lothians and Borders division team, also highlighted the effect of successful campaigns to encourage reporting of crime and an increased confidence in the police, suggesting things are looking up for next year.

He said: “Our stats so far for 2018-19 suggest nearly a 7% reduction in recorded crime compared to the same period last year.

“Furthermore, almost 50% of these offences have been detected, and inquiries will still be ongoing into many of these incidents.

“The period 2017-18 saw a 17% reduction violent crime in the Scottish Borders, and we welcomed the 26% rise in sexual crimes as, with many of these being historic offences, it shows that victims are increasingly confident in reporting these crimes to police and support services.

“An increase in reported crimes can be a result of increased awareness or concern regarding certain types of criminality, campaigns to encourage reporting of crimes which may typically be under-reported, more confidence in the police or a change in how these are recorded.

“However, in response to reports of crimes of dishonesty, fire-raising and vandalism increasing last year, we ensured that further steps were taken with partners in Scottish Borders Council, other blue light services, the crown office, procurator fiscal service and support organisations to prioritise and tackle such offences.”

Scotland as a whole saw a 1% rise, with 244,504 crimes having been reported in 2017-18.

Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton blamed the Scottish Nationalist Party’s “soft touch approach” for the increase.

She added: “We know the true picture is much worse given that most crime is never reported to the police.

“Clear-up rates have fallen, meaning more criminals are getting away with it than before.

“The SNP must ensure we have enough police officers on our streets to prevent and detect criminal behaviour, and reassure the public that they will be protected.

“Their soft touch approach to crime abandons victims, undermines the police and doesn’t deter people from committing these crimes in the first place.”

Michelle Ballantyne MSP for South Scotland, meanwhile, has called on the Scottish Government to rethink its approach to justice.

“The crime figures published this week are a clear indictment of the soft-touch approach to justice taken by this SNP Government,” she said. “There has been a significant rise in crime in the Borders and across Scotland.

“It’s particularly concerning to note the areas where crime has risen most, such as in instances of rape, attempted rape and sexual assault.

“People in the Borders need to know that the SNP will commit to tackling these issues. Under the SNP over the last ten years we have seen sexual assault rise by over 50% and rape and attempted rape have more than doubled.

“The SNP’s track record on these issues has been appalling and this should be food for thought for the Justice Secretary.

“I will be writing to him to ask what action his Government will take to fix this issue.”