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23 August 2006

Lothians crime levels rocket four times as fast as average

by IAN SWANSON, Scottish Political Editor, Edinburgh Evening News (iswanson@edinburghnews.com)

CRIME levels in Lothian and Borders have risen four times as fast as the Scottish average since 1997, official figures show.

And today opposition politicians called for more police on the beat to try to reverse the trend.

Figures provided by Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson in a written parliamentary answer to SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson show the number of crimes recorded by Lothian and Borders police rose from 71,510 in 1997 to 84,179 in 2004 - an increase of 17.7 per cent.

In Scotland as a whole, the figure went up from 420,642 to 440,372 - a rise of 4.6 per cent.

SNP justice spokesman and Lothians MSP Kenny MacAskill said the figures were "saddening and worrying".

And he urged increased police visibility on the streets. He said: "It's not just about numbers, it's about officers doing what the public wants them to do. A visible police presence reassures the public."

Earlier this summer, a breakdown of recorded crime on police beats last year revealed the centre of Edinburgh as Scotland's crime capital. It showed more offences reported in Princes Street and the New Town than in any other single area of Scotland.

And a study for the Edinburgh Community Safety Partnership earlier this year found one in five people living in Edinburgh was affected by crime.

But one in three victims of crime last year failed to make a report to police. Nearly half of all residents who had been attacked stayed silent, while four in ten victims of a sex attack or harassment did not come forward and a third of those subjected to vandalism failed to contact police.

Lothian and Borders police today claimed the figures created "a misleading impression".

A force spokeswoman said: "It would seem that the figures cover all groups, including offences reflecting police pro-activity. For example, drugs supply offences can only be recorded when they are detected. The carrying of offensive weapons is similar in this respect.

"The rise in crime figures across the Lothians and Scottish Borders therefore includes all proactive activity by police."

The Scottish Executive pointed out that while crime levels had increased in Lothian and Borders between 1997 and 2004, the figures were still considerably lower than the peak year of 1991, when recorded crimes totalled 92,935 in Lothian and Borders and 572,921 across Scotland.

An Executive spokeswoman said: "We also know that non-sexual crimes of violence decreased significantly - by more than 11 per cent in 2004-05.

"And those offences which did increase were mainly motoring offences (by 22 per cent) - due to the continued roll-out of the safety camera programme which is designed to cut road fatalities and injuries - and vandalism/fire-raising (19 per cent), which were both affected by the introduction of the new Scottish Recorded Crime Standard.

"However, we are far from complacent and are determined to create safer communities to protect the law-abiding many from the law-breaking few."
Categories [Justice]
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