Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 13:56 UK

Scottish crime 'lowest since 80s'

Generic picture of man holding a gun
Police say the decades-old problem of violent crime has to be tackled

Recorded crime in Scotland has reached its lowest level for more than 25 years, according to official figures.

In total, 385,509 crimes were reported, representing an 8% fall in 2007-08, the first time the figure has dropped below 400,000 since the early 1980s.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the Scottish Government had delivered results in its first year in power.

But the figures do not include minor offences and a senior police officer said many crimes still went unreported.

"We also have to remember that these statistics only show crimes which are reported to the police," said Det Ch Sup John Carnochan, the head of Scotland's violence reduction unit.

The Scottish Crime Survey, which records data from victims, claims that on average about 50% of crimes are not reported to police, a figure confirmed by the Scottish Government.

Det Ch Sup Carnochan said much work was also needed to rid Scotland of the decades-old problem of violent crime.

We're also tackling the underlying causes of crime - drink, drugs and deprivation
Kenny MacAskill
Justice Secretary
The statistics showed violent crime, including murder and attempted murder, was down along with drugs offences.

Non-sexual violent crimes were down 9% over the period, to 12,874, with sexual crimes dropping by 3% to 6,552, and reported rapes or attempted rapes down by 6% to 1,053.

Drug offences fell by 4% to 40,746, while crimes involving handling offensive weapons dropped by 11% to 8,989.

Vandalism, including fire-raising and malicious mischief, was also down 9% to 118,025.

The introduction of legislation last year making it illegal to solicit for the purposes of prostitution has seen crimes in this area more than double from 77 to 187.

Mr MacAskill said: "I welcome this evidence that there were tens of thousands fewer crimes and so tens of thousands fewer victims during our first year in government.

"However, we're committed to taking the action needed to drive down crime for the long-term, not just for one year."

He said there were now more police officers in Scotland than ever before.

'Many problems'

"We're also tackling the underlying causes of crime - drink, drugs and deprivation - and I recently outlined bold plans to tackle alcohol misuse, while parliament endorsed our new drugs strategy," he said.

"We are supporting police in tackling illegal drug supplies and smashing criminal gangs through the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce that I set up to ensure co-ordinated action is taken against those who prey on our communities."

However, minor crimes such as breach of the peace, drunkenness, minor assaults are not included in the figures because they are officially recorded as offences, not crimes.

When the two are combined the figure rises to 957,390.

The Conservative justice spokesman, Bill Aitken, said: "The SNP Government may well trumpet today's figures for all they are worth, but its determination to empty our jails rather than address the prison population problem in a sensible manner will hit decent, law-abiding Scots the hardest.

"I am encouraged by today's progress but there are many, many problems still to tackle."

Labour welcomed the figures, but justice spokesman Richard Baker said that progress is being threatened by proposals to end sentences of six months or less.

"Scottish prisons are in crisis and the SNP answer is to stop six-month or less prison sentences and give cons a get-out-of-jail free card," he said.

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