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Police drug operations in Caithness provided vital intelligence

By Jean Gunn

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Operation Ruling – launched in the Caithness area at the end of 2020 – helped the Highlands & Islands Police Division record one of the highest drugs crime detection rates in Scotland.

Figures released today show that crime detection rates in the division have increased while overall crime has fallen as officers, staff and special constables continue to work hard to ensure the region remains one of the safest places in Scotland.

Management performance data for the period April to December 2020, highlight an increase of nearly five percentage points in the overall detection rate compared to the previous year.

In particular, the division recorded one of the highest drugs crime detection rates in Scotland at 100 per cent. Meanwhile crimes within numerous groups have fallen including serious assaults, sexual offences and acquisitive crime.

Alongside Police Scotland’s ongoing support to combat the spread of coronavirus, operations to tackle issues such as drug misuse, anti-social behaviour and road traffic offences have also continued to be launched throughout the past year, helping to protect our communities and keep them safe.

In particular, Operation Ruling in Caithness resulted in the recovery of various quantities and values of drugs, as well as numerous arrests and reports for a range of offences.

Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent Conrad Trickett said: “It is absolutely crucial that our communities have confidence in the police, particularly at this challenging time. My team and I continue to be immensely grateful to the public for the high levels of co-operation and support we are receiving and I would ask that you continue letting us know your concerns.

"For example, information received from the Caithness community provided us with the vital intelligence required to remove harmful substances from our streets and charge numerous offenders, ultimately making a positive impact in the area. This activity continues.

“The figures contained within today’s report are to be welcomed, however I must stress once again that they have been recorded during an unprecedented time and it could be many years before we understand the full impact of coronavirus on policing and crime generally. Let me provide every reassurance though that Highlands & Islands Division remains committed to supporting the people we serve, listening to you and acting on your concerns.”

Police Scotland also published its Performance Report today which revealed that the force received an additional 25,000 calls between April and December compared to the same period last year, taking the total number of 999 and 101 contacts to almost two million during the first three-quarters of 2020-21.

Service centres are operating successfully with reduced capacity due to physical distancing requirements, while also coping with increased call demand from the public seeking guidance on coronavirus related issues.

Nationally, large increases in incidents of public nuisance (up 117.8 per cent), neighbour disputes (43.1 per cent) and noise complaints (18.5 per cent) were recorded, attributed to the challenges of coronavirus.

A significant rise in frauds also continues to be a concern both nationally and locally – in the Highlands and Islands, 402 incidents were recorded compared to 244 the previous year, with a notable increase every quarter period. The police will continue to share information and advice alongside partners, and ask the public to be vigilant too.

Commenting on the report, Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “Officers and staff continue to play a key role in the national effort to combat the spread of coronavirus, while they face the same personal and professional challenges as their fellow citizens.

“There has been an increase in the number of calls from members of the public during this period and the dedicated team within our Contact, Command and Control (C3) Division continues to provide an essential service to our communities in difficult circumstances."

Chief Superintendent Trickett added: “The past year has been challenging for everyone and, as DCC Fiona Taylor quite rightly highlighted today, our own officers, staff and special constables have been committed to supporting the national effort while facing the same challenges as their fellow citizens.

"I would like to thank everyone within the division for your continued hard work, our partners for the close links we continue to develop and, above all, our communities for your support.”

The 2020-21 Quarter 3 Performance Report has been published on the Scottish Police Authority website ahead of a public meeting of the Authority’s Policing Performance Committee on Tuesday (March 9). Associated management information is available on the Police Scotland website.

The national report also shows 999 calls were prioritised and answered within eight seconds on average, while 101 calls had a two minute 37 second average answer time.

Overall recorded crimes (groups 1-5) are down from 187,334 during the same period last year to 174,999 while detection rates are up from 52.1 to 56.5 per cent.

However, increases are noted in some specific offences, including domestic abuse (up 1.8 per cent), online child sexual abuse (up 13.4 per cent) and fraud (up 43.4 per cent).

DCC Taylor said: “The public health crisis continues to influence the needs of our communities, however it may be years before we fully understand the impact of coronavirus on crime and policing demand in Scotland.

“More generally, while there has been a reduction in overall crime in recent years, we have seen a shift to more serious offences and increasingly complex and resource-intensive investigations.

“Policing must continue to enhance our specialist capacity and capability to protect the people of Scotland from threat, harm and risk in the public, private and virtual spaces.”

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