Comment: Housebreaking not victimless crime

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Latest figures showing a sharp fall in domestic break-ins across Edinburgh are heartening. They have dropped by more than half in just five months, following a rash of incidents and a crackdown by the police.

In recent years it’s often seemed as if investigating house break-ins had dropped down the police priority list. Home-owners spoke of a delayed and often desultory response.

But housebreaking is far from a low-order, victimless crime. It causes considerable fear among those who have been robbed.

The incidents often tend to be clustered in specific areas over a short period of time, giving rise to anxiety across whole neighbourhoods.

And the sense of the home being violated can linger long after the incident has slipped down the reported offences list.

The related rise in car thefts suggests that careless householders may have made it all too easy for burglars. Simple precaution such as storing car keys out of sight would make it much more difficult.

However, the most effective deterrent is a high and rising detection rate.

Here the police can point to considerable success, and all the more welcome for residents who feared the consequences after dedicated break-in detection squads were disbanded when the new national Police Scotland was created.

Thanks to Operation RAC, launched in April after an epidemic of break-ins, there has been a notable improvement.

Other measures that have helped include high-visibility patrols and curfew checks on young offenders to ensure they are adhering to court conditions.

But the public would be even more reassured if the courts were to hand down stiffer sentences – in particular to repeat offenders. The courts need constant reminding on who are the victims of domestic break-ins – and who are the criminals.