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Caithness councillor says drop in crime levels is 'encouraging'

By Gordon Calder

A REDUCTION in crime levels in the Highlands and Islands last year has been described as "encouraging" by Caithness councillor Matthew Reiss, a retired police officer.

He was pleased there had been a drop in crime between April and December 2019 compared with the same period the previous year, with reductions in sexual offences, crimes of dishonesty and anti-social behaviour.

Councillor Reiss also welcomed an increase in detection rates, particularly regarding violent crime, with officers recording one of the highest rates in the country at 82.5 per cent.

The figures were published in a report which presented this week to the Scottish Police Authority’s policing performance committee.

Councillor Reiss, who represents Thurso and Northwest Caithness, said: "Road policing, drugs and anti-social behaviour are the biggest concerns but these trends are encouraging.

"Officers on the front line are doing the best they can. There is strong support for the police and they are responsive to local needs, but the reality is the police need more money.

"If people obey the law they have nothing to fear."

Councillor Reiss acknowledged public concern about anti-social behaviour and the perception that it was increasing, but said 10 to 15 years ago teenagers were "hanging about the precincts in Thurso".

He said: "Now they are more into social media than standing in cold precincts on a Saturday night. There are also more fixed penalties for offences these days."

He added: "The police are doing their best and deserve our support."

The report shows that crime levels in the Highlands and Islands are among the lowest in Scotland. However, non-sexual crimes of violence increased over the nine-month period from 202 to 234 – although 55 offences were recorded under the new Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 which was not accounted for last year. Nationally there were 1313 crimes recorded under the act.

The divisional commander, Chief Superintendent George Macdonald, said: "The Highlands and Islands remains one of the safest areas in Scotland which is testament to not just the efforts of our police officers and staff, special constables and youth volunteers but to the local communities we serve and the external partners we work closely alongside. This support is absolutely crucial, and by building upon the strong relationships we already have we can deliver better outcomes.

"The figures highlighted in the report will serve as a benchmark as we continue to find innovative ways of policing to help keep people safe and identify people at risk. I continue to ask our communities to let us know your concerns so that we can dedicate our resources to the right places at the right times to target the right people."

He added: "We will continue to prioritise our resources towards issues that cause the most harm to people and communities, drawing on the support of national resources including roads policing, operational support and the specialist crime division. It is also crucial that we continue to identify opportunities presented by technology to improve effectiveness and maximise the amount of time officers spend in local communities.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the public for your continued support."

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