Cameron Buchanan: Police must get priorities right

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Anyone who has been broken into knows it is one of the most disturbing and unsettling experiences 
 someone can go through.

So in the light of having your property invaded, the safety of you and your family compromised, and potentially thousands of pounds of property stolen, the least you can expect is for the police to treat the offence with the utmost severity.

That’s why it was so disappointing to see solvency rates for housebreaking tumble to 20 per cent, from an already miserable 43 per cent.

I’m sure the officers tasked with getting to the bottom of these despicable crimes, and finding the perpetrators responsible, tackle these matters the best they can.

But the problem is, the message from above appears to be that these kinds of offences don’t feature on the priority list.

You can imagine officers being told to forget the break-in on one street, get in the patrol car and catch someone not wearing a seat belt on another.

Police Scotland have made a big play of how they will get tough on motoring offences (as if drivers aren’t targeted enough) and, rightly, domestic abuse.

Unfortunately, until a cheap publicity stunt around five-year sentences for Christmas robbers, there was barely any sign the single force was serious about break-ins.

We called for the Scottish Government to make five-year maximum terms an all-year-round approach, because a robbery in June is just as bad as one on December 26.

Of course, these maximum sentences will mean nothing unless they are enforced in the courtrooms.

As it stands, the maximum sentence – Christmas apart – is one year, but many convicted of housebreaking don’t even see the inside of a cell, instead being fobbed off with fines they will never pay, and community service they won’t have to adhere to.

We know Police Scotland wants to be tough on motoring offences, and this approach will no doubt lead to a very successful clear-up rate when it comes to speeding and other related matters. So what is it going to do about burglars?

Where is the tough talk on those who think it acceptable to leave families in a state of terror by smashing their way into private properties and looting what they like?

The depressing reality for people in Edinburgh is if you have your home broken into, there is a one in five chance the culprit will be caught and punished.

If you creep over the speed limit, accidentally put a wheel into a bus lane, or mistakenly jump a red light, you are odds-on to be caught.

That is a shockingly poor misjudgement of priorities, and one Police Scotland have to turn on its head as a matter of utmost urgency.

Cameron Buchanan is a Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP