FOR the first time, there have been more reports of rape than robbery in Scotland, with almost 1,000 attacks recorded since April, Police Scotland has revealed.
Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said rapes have increased by 35 per cent to 905 between April and September, compared to the same period in 2012.
Robberies, which fell 25 per cent to 727, have historically been recorded more frequently, but numbers have fallen in recent years while reports of rapes have risen.
That is at least partly due to rape victims becoming more confident to speak up, as sexual and domestic abuse crimes have been under-reported in the past.
Police Scotland is focusing on nightclubs and bars by training door staff to tackle “late-night predators” who may attempt to single out vulnerable young women by buying them drinks and drawing them away from their friends.
Sir Stephen said officers will also challenge men and woman leaving nightclubs together, if they are believed to be strangers and the female may be taken advantage of.
He said: “The scenario we are trying to do more about is the late-night predator.
“You’re in a nightclub or a pub, a group of girls who have all had too much to drink probably, and all of a sudden a man appears and is buying a drink for one girl. Often people are not thinking clearly and they think one of them knows this guy.
“But he is a stranger who has decided to buy someone a drink to isolate them. He puts his arm around her and starts talking to them and before you know it, he’s ushering her away to a taxi.
“The friends are left thinking ‘she has gone off with that guy that she must know’. If you were out in the middle of the day, would you get into a taxi with a man you had just met? Of course you wouldn’t. That is the vulnerability.
“Under the ‘Best Bar None’ scheme we are getting licensee and door staff the training and confidence to intervene and challenge this. If they question the situation, that is usually enough to get the guy away on his toes.”
Eileen Maitland, from Rape Crisis Scotland, welcomed the new focus by the force.
She said: “It is encouraging to see Police Scotland taking such a proactive approach against predatory sex offenders.
“This sends an important message that what might appear to be an intimate situation should not be taken at face value, particularly when one party is very drunk or otherwise incapacitated. For too long, the assumption has been made that it is entirely down to women to protect themselves from sexual violence.
“The sooner we acknowledge that this is everyone’s responsibility, the sooner we will see a reduction in this sort of attack, and women on nights out can, with justification, feel safer.”
Sir Stephen believes that – even with increased reporting – only about half of all rapes are reported to the police.
He said of the new figures: “We are seeing something very strange happening. Rape used to be a very infrequent offence to see. Now we are seeing it much more often.
“The figures are up 35 per cent on last year. Every Monday we sit down as a management team and it is not unusual to find that there are more rapes than robberies across the country.”
Another possible reason for the increase has been the impact of the Jimmy Savile scandal on historic abuse cases.
Sir Stephen added: “Because of the Savile case, victims have realised the police will take it seriously, there is no statute of limitation and they can still report it even if it happened 10 years ago.”