Eyebrows and concerns would’ve undoubtedly been raised last week when it emerged Falkirk district has seen the biggest rise in recorded crime in Scotland over the past year.
As told by the Falkirk Herald, the latest figures from the Scottish Government revealed 14,627 crimes and offences were reported in the region in 2017/18 — up by 15 per cent on the year before.
A sharp 45 per cent rise in the number of sexual crimes being flagged up in particular made for alarming reading.
However, despite the surge, police chiefs have moved to reassure residents and visitors that solid steps are always taken to protect the public.
Although recorded crimes have reduced by 29 per cent in Falkirk district from 2008/09, police acknowledge many will be startled by the statistics for the last 12 months.
But the force insists the high levels of recorded crime don’t necessarily paint as bleak a picture as may appear to be the case. Instead, police put the increase in reports of certain crimes, notably those of a sexual nature, down to an “increased confidence” among victims.
Chief Inspector Damian Armstrong said: “Every officer and member of staff within the Falkirk Area Command works tirelessly across our communities to investigate crimes and offences and ensure, where possible, offenders are brought to justice. I’m aware, however, that the recent reported crime figures may well have raised concerns amongst our community.
“It is noteworthy that the total number of crimes and offences has fallen in the last ten years but the recent rise in recorded crime for 2017/2018 also reflects an increased confidence in reporting crime and I would urge any victim of crime to continue to report it to police.”
The concentrated efforts of teams which look into sexual crimes is another reason the police force remains confident in its ability to keep the public safe.
Partnership working during such investigations, police say, has won the trust of victims and witnesses, whose evidence has led to offenders being caught and prosecuted.
Chief Insp Armstrong explained: “We can’t do this work in isolation and our partners across the criminal justice, voluntary sector and victim support services have been an excellent source of assistance. I’d like to reassure our communities that each and every crime and offence is robustly reviewed and investigated to allow the best possible opportunity of detecting an offender.
“With our partners, we are committed to keeping people safe.”
SNP politician Michael Matheson, Falkirk West MSP, highlighted the work of the justice system, the NHS and schools in ensuring the country’s streets are safer than a decade ago.
He said: “While the rise in crime in the Falkirk area is disappointing, the Scottish Government are focused on working with police and other partners on keeping crime at historically low levels. I’m also pleased that the Scottish Government have set up an expert group looking at new action to prevent sexual crime, of which we know increases are being driven by a growth in online crime, greater confidence in reporting and a long-term rise in historical cases.”
Fellow SNP representative Angus MacDonald, Falkirk East MSP, said: “While it is troubling that recorded crime has seen an increase, we can take confidence from the trust that is put into our police officers to deal with those crimes. Clearly confidence in the processes in reporting crime are allowing for more victims to come forward knowing they will be supported and protected.”
Opposition parties have blamed government cuts to police resources for the increase.
Mark Griffin, Central Scotland Labour MSP, said: “Police continue to face significant challenges as a consequence of deep and consistent budget cuts. Many crimes are linked to an increase in poverty and deprivation, so it is vital every level of governmen focuses on tackling growing social injustice and inequality in our communities.”
Conservative Alison Harris, Central Scotland MSP, said: “Instead of trying to put a positive spin on these figures, the government should be ensuring police have the resources they need to do their job.”