BREAK-INS across the Capital have soared by nearly 40 per cent in the first year of Police Scotland – with officers solving just one in four cases.
New figures reveal that 11 properties a day were targeted by thieves in Edinburgh, with the total number of housebreakings peaking at 4101 for the year to April.
This was more than four times the count for 2010 – with just 765 incidents – and a 38.7 per cent leap on the previous year with 2956 cases.
It follows Police Scotland’s controversial decision to disband Edinburgh’s dedicated housebreaking units – a move that was reversed in February.
City politicians – some former police officers – branded the statistics “proof of the loss of local focus” and said the new force was “disappointingly slow” in responding to a wave of housebreaking.
Police figures show the clear-up rates during last year’s upsurge dropped by 8.4 per cent, with just a quarter of all break-ins being solved.
But today, police chiefs insisted the force was now winning the war on housebreaking with one in two cases being solved in the last three months.
Divisional commander Chief Superintendent Mark Williams said relaunching the housebreaking unit had driven down burglary rates. “Housebreaking was identified as an issue for the people of Edinburgh, we did something about it and we’re now seeing the fruits of that effort shining through,” he said. “The number of housebreakings is going down, and the number of people we are locking up is going up.”
A former senior police officer, who declined to be identified, said the new force had made a “big mistake” taking “their eye off the ball with housebreaking”.
And he said the most recent spike in break-in rates was a “major one”.
“This is not a property crime, it’s a personal crime,” he said. “If you get your house broken into, it’s a personal assault on your privacy and your wellbeing. In the last few months they have prioritised it again because it got out of hand.”
Mike Crockart, MP for Edinburgh West, who served in Lothian and Borders Police for eight years, said the housebreaking unit was revived after a backlash in Edinburgh.
He said: “These figures are further proof of the loss of local focus which happened after the formation of Police Scotland. I’ll wait to see whether detection rates are sustained at their higher rate.
“I’m also concerned by the huge rise in reported housebreakings. Was this down to a perception that this crime was no longer a priority for local policing? Only time will tell.”
The new Police Scotland statistics, published today, reveal notable success in solving rape complaints. A 12 per cent rise in reported rapes may have been sparked by the high-profile Operation Yewtree investigation that saw celebrities Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris convicted of sex crimes. It is thought widespread coverage of the police inquiry may have prompted more victims to come forward.
The clear-up rate for rapes doubled to 100 this year with police bosses crediting a new dedicated unit for the significant improvement.
Ch Supt Williams said at least half of reported rapes were historic cases “taking place not just the year before, but years ago and sometimes as long ago as childhood”.
He said: “I would expect the figure of reported rapes to continue to rise over the coming year and years ahead.”
The investigation of sexual crimes is a key pillar of Police Scotland’s much-publicised clampdown on domestic abuse, described by Ch Supt Williams as the “biggest sea change” in the transition to the single force.
“We have a far more robust approach to domestic abuse which is linked to public protection,” he said. “Because we did so much in the last year, we did see an increase in the number of petty assaults by introducing new recording procedures and crime reports.”
One of the most controversial aspects of the single police force has been the notable rise in stop and search figures. Edinburgh has seen a 40 per cent boom in police stop and search activity on last year with officers frisking nearly 30,000 suspects – around 82 cases a day. About a fifth of these were producing hidden drugs, weapons, stolen property, alcohol or other items.
Ch Supt Williams said the results demonstrated that “intelligent” searches were “justified” – linking the seizure of offensive weapons with a drop in violent crime.
“It’s not a random thing. It’s done in certain places at certain times because we know people are carrying drugs or offensive weapons and we want to keep people safe,” he said.
Of the thousands who were stopped by officers, 11 were under nine years old – but Chf Supt Williams said children were only targeted when it was “proportionate and justifiable”, for example when they are being used by adults to carry drugs.
The consensual stop and search of children under 12 is set to cease, however, after Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson announced that ending the practice was “about doing the right thing”.
Today’s report also reveals that while just one offence linked to serious organised crime was reported in 2012-13, 24 were reported last year – a rise of 2300 per cent.
This is attributed to a “more proactive” response from officers in a special unit, who have already seized more than £3 million of criminal assets in the past three months.
The number of fatal road accidents had plunged from 13 to seven, while serious injuries dropped from 171 to 149.
“That to me is a good news story,” Ch Supt Williams said.
‘PUBLIC HAS LOST CONFIDENCE IN THE FORCE’
FORMER policeman Cameron Rose – Tory councillor for Southside/Newington – blamed the temporary disbandment of Edinburgh’s housebreaking units for the spike in recorded crimes.
And he said the Grange had been repeatedly targeted by thieves making people “lose confidence” in the police.
He said: “There was a decision taken at the beginning of Police Scotland to move from inquisitive crime to crimes of violence on the person, and whilst that may have justification, they simply haven’t responded quickly enough to the failure in relation to housebreaking. That slowness in response appears to have been a reluctance to challenge the diktat of the Chief Constable. Local policing should have been able to respond to that, and didn’t, and I suspect that it was because of Sir Stephen House’s leadership style.”