Edinburgh crime detection rates ‘worst in Scotland’

Housebreaking is still a big issue in the Capital. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Housebreaking is still a big issue in the Capital. Picture: Ian Georgeson

CRIMINALS are being caught for only one in three offences committed in Edinburgh after a fall in the force’s detection rate in the city.

The crime clear-up rate in the Capital is the lowest in the country at just 35.4 per cent - a figure blamed on the demands of policing a bustling city and major tourist destination.

Among the toughest cases to crack are housebreaking and vandalism, although the force has made big strides since the controversial decision to break-up its anti-burglary team.

“Policing within major cities always experiences a lower detection rate due to the size of the population and the number of visitors to the city,” said Edinburgh police commander Chief Superintendent Kenny MacDonald.

“Edinburgh as the Capital attracts more tourists than anywhere else in Scotland which clearly impacts on the overall detection rate.”

The presence of so many tourists can attract professional thieves and many thefts go unreported until after tourists return home overseas, making it harder to trace offenders.

The detection rate in Edinburgh compares unfavourably to Scotland’s other major cities – 47.7 per cent in Glasgow, 
51.3 per cent in Dundee and 
54 per cent in Aberdeen.

Over the last year, the Capital’s detection rate dropped from 38.1 per cent over the previous 12 months – when it was the only major Scottish city to clear up less than half of crimes.

Dr Andrew Wooff, criminologist at Edinburgh Napier University, said officer numbers could have an impact on detection rates.

“Both the number of police officers per head of population, and the number of crimes per officer, have been found to be associated with clear-up rates,” he added.

“Higher numbers of police officers per head and fewer crimes per officer will be associated, generally speaking, with higher detection rates.”

The Shetland Islands have Scotland’s best detection rates – 83.7 per cent – with rural forces outperforming city counterparts.

Officers living in the area they police in smaller country towns can partly explain why they do better.

“Local community policing and associated local knowledge of communities can impact positively on detection rates,” said Dr Wooff. “This might go somewhere to explaining why many rural locations have better detection rates than Edinburgh and Glasgow.”

Edinburgh, in particular, poses unique challenges for officers, with high numbers of tourists and festivals.

“There are high numbers of tourists, parades and the parliament which means officers are regularly abstracted from regular policing duties,” the criminologist added.

Distractions faced by investigators working in Edinburgh were laid bare in a 2015 report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland.

It estimated that the equivalent of 55 officers every day were being drawn from local police teams to provide temporary cover for a range of additional demands, including around 1,150 pre-planned events the city hosts each year.

Dr Wooff said he expected Police Scotland’s 2026 strategy to begin addressing some of these challenges with a strong emphasis on “localism”.

He added: “This should allow resourcing of more specific local needs and in Edinburgh’s case, help with the planning of resourcing these events.”

The strategy also proposes basing public protection on threat, risk and harm – which might help police better prioritise resources.

Dr Wooff said detection rates could vary wildly depending on types of crime, with Edinburgh having a more “complex crime mix” than other places.

Only one in four housebreakings (25.8 per cent) were cleared up in Edinburgh over the last year.

Other crimes to bring down Edinburgh’s average included vandalism (16.3 per cent), fire-raising (16.6 per cent) and dishonesty (25.8 per cent).

Chief superintendent Macdonald said housebreaking remained a priority with improved case reporting contributing to lower detection rates.

“However, the significant reduction in the number of domestic housebreakings demonstrates that overall we are succeeding in making Edinburgh a no-go area for housebreakers,” he added.

Tip-offs from the public were crucial in tackling the “blight” of anti-social behaviour crimes including vandalism, said chief superintendent Macdonald.

Officers and partners examine causes and ways it can be tackled – dealing with any offences and trying to prevent future cases, he added.

Information from the public is handled “as sensitively as possible”, he added.

“Thanks to the support of local people we have seen a decrease in crimes of this nature, and a slight increase in detection rates. I would always urge anyone experiencing such anti-social behaviour to call police whilst it’s in progress.”

Chief Superintendent MacDonald said taking criminals off the streets was the primary focus for officers. “Detection of more serious crimes remains strong,” he added

Anger as criminals yet to be caught

Housebreaking victim Andrea Mannion still feels the effects of the crime three months on

And the fact police have never been able to catch the culprits makes it rawer still.

“I haven’t heard anything from the police at all,” said widowed mother-of-two Andrea, 49.

“It does make it worse that no one has been caught for it. It would be more satisfying if they’re got punished it for it.”

One Monday morning in March, Andrea woke to find the back door of her Port Seton home had been forced open, car keys taken and a £12,000 Kia Cee’d stolen from the driveway.

Worse still, the car was packed full of £2,000 worth of costumes and equipment for Andrea’s dance school summer spectacular.

Many of the outfits for Andrea’s 65 dance students, aged three to 18 years old, were more than 20 years old and irreplaceable.

Some were borrowed from a retired dance teacher while others were made by Andrea’s mum.

The show went on and Andrea managed to replace costumes with some goodwill from Evening News readers - but the impact is felt still.

“It’s months later and I’m still suffering the effects of it,” she said. “I’m still trying to find things that were in the car.

“The trauma of it has really affected my organisational skills. My brain has gone into meltdown.

“It has lasting effects. They’re [the suspect] still running around scot free, possibly doing this to others and that does make me angry.”