Police Scotland warns that reporting changes may lead to the appearance of a rise in weapons crime
Knife - Image credit: PA Images
Police Scotland has warned that a new way of recording knife crime and crimes involving other offensive weapons may lead to the appearance of a rise in offences in the next set of crime figures.
The national force has changed the way it records crimes involving offensive weapons this year to give a better understanding of weapons and knife crime across the country.
Since 1 April 2017 police have been tracking the number of knives and other offensive weapons used to commit crimes separately from the crime of possession of a knife or offensive weapon.
The crime of handling a weapon when used to commit a crime will now be counted in the official statistics, whereas previously the police just recorded possession of an offensive weapon.
This is to align recording practices with criminal law, where the possession of a weapon or knife in a public setting is a separate crime from using a weapon to commit an offence.
The change was agreed by the Scottish Crime Recording Board, following a request from Police Scotland.
However, it means that when the statistics for the first quarter of 2017/18 are published shortly, they are likely to show what appears to be a rise in violent crime due to some incidents now being recorded in two categories rather than one.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams, who has the portfolio responsibility within Police Scotland for tackling violent crime, said the changes would provide the police with a “more complete picture” of the problem and enable the force to better target resources.
He said: “The change in recording practices is an important step to improve our understanding of the complexity of the issue.
“We know that, as a result of these, there is likely to be an increase in the volume of offensive weapon offences recorded in our management information figures but let me assure you that does not mean there are more weapons on our streets.
“What it does mean is that police and partners can work more effectively to prevent crime by targeting resources in the right parts of the country, to help us do more effective preventative and educational work.”