Drunkenness blamed over surge in city rape reports

BINGE boozing is behind a surge in rapes across the Capital over the past year, Edinburgh’s top cop has warned.

Official figures published today by Police Scotland reveal attacks and attempts up nearly a fifth – from 184 last year to 217 this year.

Rape reports are on the rise according to Police Scotland. Picture: TSPL

Rape reports are on the rise according to Police Scotland. Picture: TSPL

Overall crime was up 12 per cent, with more than a third more robberies and vandalism also up – though numbers of housebreakings dropped.

“The over-consumption of alcohol by men and women has resulted in an increase in the number of women in vulnerable positions and the number of men willing to take advantage of that,” said temporary chief super Richard Thomas.

He vowed to work with pubs and clubs to keep revellers safe while also commissioning research to confirm the link, adding: “The indication is there’s some connection.”

Sandy Brindley, chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “This is a significant and worrying increase in reported rapes.

“While some of the increase may be due to increased confidence in speaking out and reporting rape, it’s likely that at least some of this increase is due to more rapes taking place.

“It’s important that the justice system acts as a real deterrent to potential perpetrators of this crime – currently only a small proportion of reported rapes ever make it to court, and less than half of these result in a conviction.”

Rape Crisis Scotland runs an advocacy project with specially trained workers supporting victims and their families throughout the criminal justice process.

“More needs to be done to improve justice responses to rape. It’s important that people know that support is available,” added Ms Brindley.

Robberies were up 36 per cent on last year – from 211 to 287 – with nearly two-thirds (65.9 per cent) detected – up from 59.7 per cent last year.

Mr Thomas said there was “no obvious trend” in terms of those committing robberies or those targeted – with a mix of street attacks and raids on shops.

He attributed the rise in clear-up rates to specialist units tackling robberies and other violent crimes.

“We put a plan in place at the end of 2017 because we saw an upward trend in robberies and we’re continuing that into 2018,” he added.

Serious assaults dropped five per cent, from 388 to 368, while lesser common assaults were up two per cent from 5,864 to 6,007.

Assaults on emergency workers, mostly against police officers, were up nine per cent – from 494 to 540.

Numbers of housebreakings on homes were down to 1,584 from 1,733 last year and 1,984 for the five-year average.

“Housebreaking is a priority in Edinburgh. People don’t want to see their houses broken into and we have very, very focused teams who work on that,” said Mr Thomas.

There was a 14 per cent rise in business housebreakings, from 821 to 933 – though Mr Thomas said officers “don’t see much swapping between dwellings and businesses.”

Common theft was up 13 per cent – from 4,769 to 5,411 – driven by a spike of bike thefts across the city.

Demands from the public to address the cycle crimewave led to the launch of Operation Agora.

“People previously operating in the area of housebreaking, some of these have moved into pedal cycles – stealing from sheds,” said Mr Thomas

“It’s seen as relatively low risk and they can sell on for quite a lot of money – they’re riding away on £3,000 bikes.

“We’re getting a good handle on it and we’re confident we’re seeing some good results,” added Mr Thomas.

Shoplifting was up 12 per cent, from 3,774 to 4,223, with officers compiling a list of repeat offenders and helping stores with tips on thwarting thieves.

Theft of motor vehicles – about three-quarters of which are motorcycles – was down eight per cent, from 937 to 861.

Mr Thomas attributed the drop and the rise in detection rates from 23.4 to 26.5 per cent to the high-profile Operation Soteria.

“We’ve worked with city schools around education because a lot of these kids wanted to get on bikes and go joyriding which is extremely dangerous and we’ve seen some fatalities and serious injuries in the past,” he said.

Although vandalism was up five per cent, from 5,007 to 5,236 year-on-year, the total number in 2017/18 was down on the five-year average of 5,264.

Drug dealing busts were up nearly two-thirds in the year, up from 375 to 611, with Mr Thomas praising raids by specialist teams.

“This is not more drugs on the streets, it tends to mean we’re doing more proactively,” he said.

Drugs seized during the year included heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis with no surge in any particular narcotic.

Numbers of offenders carrying offensive weapons were up 27 per cent, from 84 to 107, but was down 42 per cent on the five-year average of 152.

Mr Thomas also attributed this to “proactive policing” and stop-and-search, with hotspots including Newington, Leith Walk and Dalry.

Edinburgh Napier University criminologist Dr Liz Aston, said: “The relationship between alcohol and offending is complex and any rise 
in reported rapes could be 
associated with a number of factors, such as increased public confidence in reporting this 
crime.

“Responses to sexual crimes have been in the spotlight recently with the #MeToo campaign and victims may feel that they are now more likely to be taken seriously.”

The Rape Crisis Scotland helpline can be reached on 08088 01 03 02.