POLICE are turning back the clock on crime, with latest figures showing recorded offences in the Lothians are at their lowest level since 1976.
Officers in the Capital are also winning the war on petty crime, as figures showed a drop of almost a quarter in cases of vandalism in Edinburgh.
The reduction in low-level disorder and antisocial behaviour such as letting down car tyres, daubing graffiti on walls and smashing windows was today attributed to pro-active policing and the provision of alternative activities.
Senior police sources said work by community-based officers in neighbourhood teams and initiatives like mini-football tournaments were paying off.
Latest figures show crime in Lothian and Borders is now at its lowest level since 1976 – the year which saw the release of Oscar-winning boxing movie Rocky, when Britain sweltered in a summer heatwave, Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister and Jimmy Carter was elected American president.
Crime overall fell by around 13 per cent both in Lothian and Borders and across Scotland between 2011-12 and 2012-13.
Glasgow had the highest overall crime rate in Scotland with 889 crimes recorded per 10,000 population. Aberdeen (709) and West Dunbartonshire (675) were both worse than Edinburgh (632).
Violent offences dropped by around 20 per cent both nationally and locally. Robberies, housebreaking, shoplifting and drugs offences were all down. In Lothian and Borders, sexual offences also fell slightly – from 1358 to 1331 – despite a five per cent rise in Scotland as a whole. In Edinburgh, sexual offences dropped from 829 to 774.
But the biggest fall was in vandalism – down from 13,010 reported incidents in 2011-12 to 9942 last year.
Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said one reason for a reduction in graffiti was the “legal graffiti walls” in New Street and near Potterrow. She said: “It’s creative thinking around giving people a space to express themselves where they can spray-paint to their hearts content.”
She praised the work of community neighbourhood police in helping prevent antisocial behaviour.
“I’ve been out with the neighbourhood teams from Howdenhall and Craigentinny and they’re fantastic,” she said.
“They work closely with youth workers and young people, they know the faces and they can pre-empt things before they happen.
“A lot of council money has gone into that and it’s a really constructive attitude to policing which is now bearing fruit. But we cannot take it for granted and we need to continue building on it.”
Conservative councillor Iain Whyte, former convener of Lothian and Borders police board and a member of the new Scottish Police Authority, said the figures – the last which will cover the old force areas – were greatly encouraging.
He said: “They are a fantastic vindication of the work the police are doing and the approach Lothian and Borders took in terms of its prevention work.
“The most heartening thing is to see where that has been particularly effective over the force’s last year in areas like vandalism, where work has to be done in partnership with other organisations, working with young people to make sure they are better employed and doing worthwhile things.”
Cllr Whyte said the reduction in vandalism and petty crime was largely thanks to the grassroots work done by the police. “From talking to officers, it was due to the work they were doing, building links with the community, the extra officers who were put in – all that was concentrating on low-level crime which has a big impact on people’s lives and needs to be reduced.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We welcome the drop in incidents of vandalism across Edinburgh, the Lothians and Scottish Borders over the past year, which is testament to the pro-active approach taken by police towards dealing with vandalism and other forms of antisocial behaviour.
“Rest assured that we will continue to focus our efforts on keeping people safe, and reducing incidents of vandalism and antisocial behaviour in local communities.”
Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill said it was particularly encouraging to see violent crime dropping. He said: “There will be no let-up in our efforts, backed by record numbers of police officers who are keeping communities safe and clearing up crimes more efficiently than ever before.
“We are continuing to work tirelessly to reduce knife crime and violence in Scotland and believe education and prevention are key to tackling the root causes of violence. That’s why we are investing in the No Knives, Better Lives initiative, and why we work with other key partners like the Violence Reduction Unit and Medics Against Violence.
“We are also taking a robust approach to enforcement. Sentences for carrying a knife in Scotland are the toughest in the UK and our prosecutors are taking a zero-tolerance approach.”
Detection rates down
RECORDED incidents of housebreaking in Lothian and Borders fell over the past year by around 12 per cent - from 4972 to 4361.
Last week, the Evening News revealed how the number of burglars being caught in Edinburgh had plummeted since the city’s specialised housebreaking teams were disbanded under the move to a single police force.
Since the launch of the new force on April 1, only 17 per cent of housebreakings in the Capital have been solved, compared with 40 per cent during the same two-month period last year.
Rape campaign hit with funding cuts
THE number of rapes and attempted rapes in Lothian & Borders were up from 254 to 280 - but funding for the Edinburgh Women’s Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre was halved earlier this year when cash from the National Lottery dried up.
Sandy Brindley, co-ordinator for Rape Crisis Scotland,said: “The increase in reported rapes – and the fact we know many still go unreported – demonstrate the need for support services like the Edinburgh centre to be properly funded.
“We know that if survivors are supported they are more likely to report and continue with justice proceedings.
“A big fundraising appeal raised enough money to keep the centre going for this year, but beyond that they still face a huge hole in their funding.”
Analysis: Research needed to work out why crime changes
The statistics reflect an ongoing pattern of falling crime in Scotland in recent years – which has also been seen right across Europe and other parts of the world, including the United States and Australia, since about the mid-1990s. A number of explanationshave been offered, including greatly improved security measures and changes in population demographics.
The fall in violence is likely to be at least partly explained by changes in policing approaches which have focused on tackling persistent and prolific offenders. However, Scotland still has above-average homicide rates compared with many other European countries. We know this is very geographically clustered and the west of Scotland is more seriously affected. That is why we need research that focuses on how and why crime changes in different areas. I am leading a new programme of research at Edinburgh University, which aims to better understand the causes of this drop and explain whether rates of crime have changed equally in all parts of Scotland.
• Susan McVie, Professor of Quantitative Criminology