A DRAMATIC rise in shoplifting has pushed East Lothian’s crime figures up despite a national downward trend.
Statistics showed overall crime in the county last year rose by 2.6 per cent while the picture for the whole of Scotland was a reduction of 3.2 per cent.
A breakdown of different categories of crime revealed that shoplifting soared by 55 per cent – from 356 cases in 2014-15 to 552 in 2015-16.
The detection rate for shoplifting rose slightly, from 64.9 per cent to 65.2 per cent.
There was also a 10 per cent rise in vandalism from 709 to 780; fire-raising was up 30 per cent from 34 to 44; and crimes involving offensive or bladed weapons increased by 51 per cent from 31 to 47.
Drug crimes rose too – by more than 13 per cent, from 305 to 347 – including a 9 per cent increase in cases of possession of drugs, from 258 to 282, and a jump in supply and production of drugs from 44 to 60.
The number of robberies was virtually unchanged – 17 compared with 18 last year.
Motor vehicle crime saw a slight rise, from 273 to 287.
But other categories of crime saw a fall, with serious assaults down 41 per cent from 36 to 21; common assaults down 10 per cent from 686 to 612; and housebreaking down by nearly a quarter from 351 to 265. Fraud cases were also down by a third, from 113 to 88.
The overall detection rate in East Lothian increased slightly from 44.6 per cent in 2014-15 to 45.5 per cent in 2015-16.
National figures showed an increase in shoplifting of just 4 per cent and a detection rate of 72.9 per cent.
Shoplifting has been highlighted as a concern in crime figures for East Lothian on previous occasions.
Police have stressed they work closely with staff at targeted premises to give effective crime prevention advice, as well as encouraging co-operation between shops to prevent future thefts.
East Lothian Labour MSP Iain Gray voiced concern about the rise in shoplifting in the county.
He said: “I had been aware of an increase in property thefts in recent times in East Lothian, although that mostly seemed to have been around thefts from garages.
“So these figures are worrying. It’s important everyone works with the police and retailers to report any incidents of shoplifting.
“This is one of the crimes which people sometimes think is victimless, but of course it’s not.
“We all pay for it in higher prices.”
Chief Inspector Matt Paden, Local Area Commander for East Lothian, said the shoplifting figures had now begun to decline.
He said: “We take a partnership approach to shoplifting, working closely with local and national retailers and their respective security teams to both prevent thefts from occurring and deal robustly with anyone found to be stealing from stores.
“This multi-agency approach has led to significant reductions in shoplifting over recent months, and we can report that it’s reduced by almost 40 per cent since the start of April with 85 per cent of those offences which have occurred detected.”