Crime rates are down in the Falkirk district but serious concern remains over the rise in violent and sexual offences in the area.
Latest statistics show recorded incidents in Falkirk fell from 17,321 crimes and offences in 2015-16 to 14,351 over the past year – down six per cent overall.
The good news, however, is dampened by the fact that sexual crimes have risen for the third year in a row to 297 offences in 2016-17 compared to 289 the previous year.
Despite the rise in sexual crime, rape and attempted rape offences were down by 15 per cent locally to 50 recorded cases.
Research commissioned by Justice Secretary and Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson shows that around half of the increase in recorded sexual crimes in the past three years was due to a rise in sexual cyber crime, with the average age of both perpetrators and victims substantially lower in sexual offences involving the internet.
Mr Matheson announced that justice, education and health experts will work to prepare an action plan to tackle sexual crime, especially offences involving young people.
Mr Matheson said: “The sexual crimes research makes it clear that more work is required to understand why young males in particular are behaving in this way.
“While we have taken considerable steps in this area, such as our recent ‘intimate images’ campaign, the national action plan on internet safety and our ‘Equally Safe’ strategy, I am bringing together an expert group to identify further steps needed to better tackle, and ultimately prevent, such offending.”
Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo QC hosted a summit last month to educate young people on sexual crimes.
She said: “Too many children and young people are coming into contact with our justice system as a result of sexual offending and we know that technology has an increasingly significant part to play.
“I am delighted that this new expert group will now build on the success of the summit and, acting on the key messages we heard, identify and take the next steps to inform and protect our young people.”
Violent crime, which includes murder, culpable homicide and serious assaults, has increased even further in the district to 197 offences this year – a rise of 19 on 2015-16 figures – but is “significantly” lower than 10 years ago.
Nationally, recorded crime fell by three per cent, which is the lowest level since 1974.
“While the continued fall in recorded crime to a 43-year low is encouraging, I remain focused on ensuring that everyone feels safe in our communities,” added Mr Matheson.
“That demands a relentless focus on where crimes persist, to identify where best to strengthen the collective efforts of policing, public services and communities themselves.
“Through our strong and sustained focus on prevention, violent crime across Scotland is now almost half the level it was when the SNP came to power. However, I’m determined to build on this, ensuring further progress in future years.
“That’s why I have asked for more detailed analysis into how violence, and the factors behind it, are changing and what is needed to make our communities safer still.”
In Falkirk district, the total number of crimes dropped from 6099 to 5713. The figures show a sharp decrease in housebreaking (down 42 per cent to 252 cases), theft from vehicles (down 51 per cent to 40 cases), robbery (down 31 per cent to 20 cases) and fire-raising (down 32 per cent to 57 cases).
The number of offences was also down to 8638 from 11,222 the previous year making the total number of crimes and offences in Falkirk 14,351 for 2016-17, a decrease of 2970.
Crimes of dishonesty (which includes housebreaking, shoplifting, fraud): 2462 (down 310 on 2015-16); fire-raising, vandalism: 1418 (down 25); other crimes (perjury, resisting arrest, offensive weapons, drug crimes, conspiracy): 1339 (down 78); miscellaneous offences (common assault, breach of the peace, threatening and abusive behaviour, drunkenness, racial offences): 4029 (down 473); motor vehicle offences (dangerous driving, drink driving, speeding, driving while banned, no insurance, seatbelt, mobile phone and parking offences): 4609 (down 2111).
Chief Inspector Damian Armstrong of the Forth Valley Division said alcohol plays a major part in violence locally.
He said: “We welcome the reduction in overall crime in Falkirk, demonstrating that the town is a safe place to live work and visit, however, we will not become complacent and will continue to address any offences that arise and support victims accordingly.
“Officers work tirelessly to keep people safe and we are committed to help reducing the number of violent crimes committed.”
“Unfortunately the over consumption of alcohol often plays a role in violent crime and we continue to work with our partners to address this.
He added: “We note the increase in recorded sexual offences and this can in some way be attributed to a rise in the number of none recent sexual crimes being reported.
“This is testament to the confidence in policing the public in Falkirk have, and we will continue to investigate all reports of sexual crimes with the upmost professionalism and seriousness.
“We would encourage any victims of sexual crime to come forward and contact Police Scotland on 101, or utilise the charity Crimestoppers where all reports are anonymous.”