Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scots crime 'lowest in 30 years'

There were drops in violent crime, sexual offences and vandalism

Do stats tell the whole story?

Recorded crime in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level in almost 30 years, official statistics have revealed.

Official figures showed the total number of crime reported to police forces fell to 377,433 in 2008-09.

Violent crimes, sexual offences and vandalism fell, while theft and fraud increased slightly.

Ministers welcomed the figure, but Labour said it was only a 2% drop on the previous year and claimed ministers were losing the war on crime.

The report, from Scotland's chief statistician, showed the overall crime rate was the lowest since 1980.

All eight police forces recorded a drop, ranging from a marginal fall in the Northern area and Lothian and Borders to an 11% decrease in Dumfries and Galloway.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill welcomed the figures - but warned against complacency over crime.

He said: "For the second year in a row, crime in Scotland is down to the lowest level in nearly 30 years. With record numbers of police officers tackling crime and serving our communities, this government is working to make Scotland safer and stronger."

There were a total of 12,612 violent crimes in 2008-09, a 2% drop on the previous year, while sexual crimes fell by 3%, from 6,552 to 6,331.

Within the indecency group, recorded cases of rape and attempted rape fell by 9% to 963.

But Scottish Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker said Scotland was not making enough progress on tackling crime.

"The SNP soft-touch agenda on crime and justice isn't working when we see only a 2% drop in Scotland in crime - a very small decrease indeed, whereas in England and Wales we've seen a 5% drop," he said.

'Conservative policy'

The Conservatives' Gavin Brown urged ministers to move away from their presumption against jail terms of six months or less, while saying his party could claim credit for the drop in crime.

"These figures are moving in the right direction," he said, adding: "The government's main policy for justice was to put 1,000 extra police on the beat - pushed by the Scottish Conservatives.

"Without that, who knows what would have happened with these stats."

Elsewhere, the figures showed "crimes of dishonesty" increased slightly to stand at 167,812 cases - the first rise for a decade.

Recorded cases of vandalism, including fire-raising and malicious mischief, decreased by 7% to a total of 109,430.

And other recorded crimes, including drug offences, crimes against public justice and offensive weapons offences, decreased marginally to a total of 81,248.

The clear-up rate for all recorded crimes in 2008-09 was 49% - the highest in 20 years - compared with 48% the previous year, while the clear-up rate for non-sexual violent crimes increased from 62% to 64%.

But crimes of indecency were less likely to be solved, with a drop of 4% to 68% in the clear-up rate.

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