By Bill Heaney
Recorded crime remains at one of the lowest levels in nearly 50 years, according to the latest annual statistics.
Official figures show that the total number of crimes recorded by Police Scotland in the past year was 246,511 – one of the lowest levels of recorded crime since 1974.
Overall, that figure is down by five crimes from the previous year. However, taking into account the 20,976 crimes recorded under Coronavirus related legislation, compared to just 107 towards the end of 2019-20, other crime categories have collectively decreased by 8% in the past year.
Between 2019-20 and 2020-21 recorded crime fell in four key areas:
- non-sexual crimes of violence decreased by 4%, from 9,316 to 8,972. This includes the recording of 1,641 crimes under the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 in 2020-21, the second year this legislation has been in place
- sexual crimes decreased by 2% from 13,364 to 13,131
- crimes of dishonesty decreased by 19%, from 111,409 to 89,731, the lowest level since 1971
- fire-raising and vandalism decreased by 10% from 47,731 to 42,964. The recording of these crimes is at the lowest level seen since 1975
The National Statistics Recorded Crime in Scotland 2020-21 bulletin – which includes a new chapter on cyber-crime – estimated that 14,130 cyber-crimes were recorded by the police in Scotland in 2020-21, almost double the 2019-20 figure.
Part of this increase may be due to the significant impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including behavioural changes such as increased online shopping.
SNP Justice Secretary Keith Brown, pictured left, said: “By all main measures crime, including violent crime, is now considerably lower than it was a decade ago, with fewer victims.
“These statistics show how crime in areas like vandalism and dishonesty, the sorts of crime that affects peoples’ everyday lives, has fallen – with levels not seen since the 1970s.
“There is still work to be done as the figures on cybercrime show – which is why we have this year published a prevention, awareness and enforcement strategy to make Scotland an inhospitable place for scammers.
“And while COVID-19 has no doubt had an impact on the figures, recorded crime was on a downward trend beforehand and through the measures we recently announced in our Programme for Government – we will continue to make Scotland a safe place to live.
“It sets out how we intend to transform the way in which justice services are delivered, moving away from the use of custody for those who don’t pose a risk of serious harm, while protecting the police resource budget in real terms for the entirety of the Parliament.
“Overall, these very positive trends are testimony not just to the hard work of Police Scotland but to the vital support the Scottish Government has put in place to enable officers to do their jobs effectively.”
The Scottish Government has invested over £23 million into violence prevention programmes since 2008, taking a public health approach, working with partners, individuals and communities across Scotland to tackle the underlying causes of violence through collaborative prevention and early intervention work including our No Knives Better Lives, Mentors in Violence Prevention and Hospital Navigator programmes.
Police officer numbers are favourable relative to elsewhere in the UK with around 32 officers per 10,000 population in Scotland compared to around 23 officers per 10,000 population in England and Wales.
The Scottish Government has increased police funding year-on-year since 2016-17 and have invested more than £10bn in policing since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013 with officer numbers significantly above the level inherited in 2007.
Despite the constraints on Scotland’s public services through a decade of UK austerity, our investment in policing this year increased by £60.5 million to more than £1.3 billion, with an additional £15 million specifically to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the policing budget. We also currently, have a higher number of officers than at any time during the previous administration with an increase of 1,055 police officers since 2007.
Read the full statistical release.