THE number of people caught carrying a knife or other offensive weapon has fallen by 67 per cent in less than a decade as new figures show recorded crime is at a 41-year low.
Crimes of handling an offensive weapon, including knives, were down by 13 per cent last year, a fall of 67 per cent since 2006-07 and the lowest level since 1985.
But the number of sex crimes being recorded continues to rise, up 11 per cent in a year.
And the clear-up rate for all recorded crimes decreased by 1.1 percentage points from 51.5 per cent to 50.4 per cent.
The trend in violent crime, which is down six per cent, mirrors that seen internationally.
Justice secretary Michael Matheson said: “Recorded crime has fallen for the eighth year in a row and is now at its lowest level for 41 years, violent crime is down 6 per cent and crimes of handling an offensive weapon (including knives) have reduced by 67 per cent since 2006-07.
“The falling figures around violent crime are especially encouraging and are testament to increased policing and to the huge amount of groundbreaking work being done by the Violence Reduction Unit and the Scottish Government’s No Knives, Better Lives programme amongst others to educate our young people about the dangers and consequences of becoming involved in any form of violence.”
Karyn McCluskey director of the Violence Reduction Unit, said: “Reducing violence is a complex challenge. The Violence Reduction Unit has always been clear that long-term planning is crucial to making Scotland one of the safest countries in the world. The dedication of communities, teachers, early years, health, police and prison staff in Scotland has shown that we can change the outcomes for so many of our citizens and we should be proud of what they have achieved.”
There are a number of theories around the fall in violent crime seen worldwide, from increased standards of living to the removal of lead from petrol.
Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said: “The reality is that fewer people are becoming victims of crime. The clear-up rate remains high which I believe provides communities with reassurance that where crime does take place, Police Scotland is committed to tracing offenders and reporting them for prosecution.”
But Lib Dem justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said the fall in the clear-up rate was a result of police officers “backfilling” civilian duties with Police Scotland.
She said: “I’m concerned that the fall in clear up rates reveals the real impact of backfilling.
“The SNP’s centralisation of policing has resulted in the loss of a number of critical civilian staff. Policing bodies have continually raised concerns that this loss is only shifting more pressure on to police officers.
“We need a wide inquiry into the operations of Police Scotland to give officers and communities confidence that lessons are being learnt.
“It would be reckless of SNP ministers to allow the clear up rate to continue to slip without any examination as to why.”