RECORDED crime in Scotland has fallen by 3.2% in the past year, new figures show.
The latest Police Scotland statistics reveal the drop is mainly due to a decrease in crimes of dishonesty such as theft and housebreaking.
Murders are at their lowest level since crime-recording practices changed in 2004 but violent and sexual crimes have increased.
The force recorded 246,243 crimes across five major categories in Scotland between April 1, 2015 and March 31 this year.
Of these, 127,126 crimes were detected, a 1% increase on last year’s 50.6%.
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Officers recorded 49 murders in the year, six fewer than the previous year. Only one remains undetected.
Sexual crime rose 6.2% year on year but many of the offences reported are not recent. Recorded rapes dropped by 6.5% and nearly 40% of rape reports related to incidents a year or more old.
Violent crime increased by 5.3% and serious assaults have risen by almost a quarter (24.2%) but the force said changed recording guidelines for these crimes mean some incidents which would have been minor assaults before January 2015 are now classified as serious.
Domestic abuse incidents fell by 3.1% to 57,687 - these accounted for 26% of all violent crime and 11% of sexual crime.
Crimes of dishonesty fell by 7.8% year on year and robberies were down by 11.4%.
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “The overall reduction in recorded crime is to be welcomed - it means fewer victims of crime in our communities.
“There were fewer than 50 murders last year across the whole of the country, with major investigation teams working closely with local policing officers to detect those crimes and manage the impact in communities.
“The loss of any life is a tragedy and we will continue to do all we can to reduce violent crime.
“In continuing to tackle sexual crime, we have committed significant resources to the investigation of non-recent sexual abuse, domestic abuse, rape and other sexual offending with a focus on victim-centred investigations.
“We aim to use intelligence and the latest investigative techniques to ensure offenders are caught. Preventative and awareness work has also taken place with partners as part of our violence prevention strategy to impact on those who would commit such crimes in a way that changes and challenges their behaviour.
“The past 12 months have continued to present challenges for policing in Scotland; the emergence of cyber-related crime is being closely monitored as we move forward.”