Recorded crime in April down 18 per cent on previous year
The number of crimes reported to police dropped by 18 per cent in April 2020 compared to April 2019, reducing from 20,994 to 17,171, while the number of offences (less serious crimes) dropped even more, by 29 per cent, from 21,644 to 15,449.
Most areas of crime were down: non-sexual crimes of violence were 14 per cent lower, sexual crimes were 26 per cent lower, crimes of dishonesty were down 24 per cent, fire-raising and vandalism dropped by 26 per cent, motor vehicle offences were down 42 per cent and miscellaneous offences, such as common assault and breach of the peace, were down by 16 per cent.
However, there was 38 per cent increase in reports of fraud, suggesting people taking advantage of the coronavirus situation, and there was also a 37 per cent increase in crimes recorded as ‘other violence’, particularly relating to threats and extortion.
It is also suspected that the drop in some areas, such as the 13 per cent decrease in crimes relating to domestic abuse, 46 per cent decrease in sexual assault and 27 per cent reduction in reports of rape or attempted rape, may relate to difficulty in reporting this during lockdown rather than an actual decrease.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While many types of crime have fallen in recent months, we know that some people have been using lockdown as a chance to commit offences, notably fraud – including targeting some of our most vulnerable citizens and exploiting businesses.
“We must remain vigilant to such criminals, and also to the risks of harm against those who may be living in fear of abuse and violence within their own homes.
“I would urge anyone who has experienced or witnessed crime to continue to report it.
“Some women and children may feel very isolated now and need our help more than ever.
“My message to anyone experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence is absolutely clear: while you may feel vulnerable and unseen, you are not alone.
“Help from police and support services is still available round the clock.
“We know that criminals may also be using lockdown as a chance to exploit the vulnerable, especially those most at risk at home and in the care sector.
“This behaviour is absolutely abhorrent and we, along with the police, are determined to pursue those who set out to cause harm and misery to our communities.”
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “The recorded crime figures show some changes to the demands on policing, but it will undoubtedly take months, or even years, before we understand the true impact of the coronavirus pandemic on crime levels in Scotland.
“Our officers will continue to pursue fraudsters who set out to cause harm and misery to our communities.
“I know that private and virtual spaces are not safe places for some people and that the current restrictions may expose them to a greater risk of abuse, harm and neglect.
“Police Scotland will always pursue reports of domestic abuse or sexual crime whenever they occur and will continue to support those who feel vulnerable in our communities, particularly during this challenging time.
“Police Scotland is here to help 24 hours a day and if you need our support or intervention, please contact us.”
Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson, James Kelly, warned against complacency.
He said: “It is certainly welcome that fewer criminal offences were committed this April than in 2019, but the Scottish Government must guard against complacency.
“It is vital that the Scottish Government ensures that there are measures in place to keep people and communities safe as restrictions on movement and travel are lifted.
“Continued action on domestic abuse is vital to protect victims in these difficult times.
“Scottish Labour will continue to hold the government’s actions to account as the lockdown is lifted.”
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary said: “The lockdown has clearly had a far greater impact on reducing crime in Scotland than the SNP has had in the last 13 years – particularly as crime has been rising for the last two years.
“Against this backdrop it’s pretty shocking that the number of individuals using knives as part of their criminal activity has actually increased.
“Crimes of fraud have been rising for some time, but it is particularly reprehensible that devious criminals have been preying on anyone struggling through lockdown.
“Given this increase in crime involving knives, the SNP government simply cannot be complacent.
“The SNP government must rethink its soft touch justice agenda and resource Police Scotland properly or crime levels may soon begin to soar again.”