Figures from Police Scotland show there was a 1.7 per cent increase in total crime during the period 1 April, 2017 to 31 March, 2018 when compared with the same period the year before. The figure increases to 3.4 per cent when statistics on weapon possession – which were not previously recorded separately – are included.
Violent crime increased by 1.1 per cent, while there was a 12.2 per cent rise in sexual crime, believed to be down to victims having the confidence to come forward.
Police Scotland said that while recorded crime had risen, it remained below the level recorded when the force was created in April 2013.
There were 10,300 fewer crimes in 2017-18 than the five-year average, a drop of 4 per cent.
The figures show there were 7,251 non-sexual violent crimes in the period between 1 April and 31 March, up 0.8 per cent on the same period the previous year.
Despite the overall increase, there were 55 murders (a fall of 12.7 per cent) and the number of serious assaults decreased by 1.4 per cent to 3,949.
The number of robberies increased 8.4 per cent to 1,556, while there were 245 attempted murders, up 2.1 per cent on the previous year.
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said: “It is no coincidence that crime is on the increase while so many frontline officers are doing backroom work.
“The rise in crime, coupled with SNP-mandated centralisation and leadership challenges within Police Scotland have caused a worrying decrease in public confidence.
“The SNP has repeatedly prioritised organisational changes and cost savings over ensuring our police force has the manpower and resources it needs. The SNP must shift focus back to the day job; free up our police officers to catch criminals, keep people safe and rebuild public confidence.”
But a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The recent crime and justice survey showed that crime in Scotland has fallen by around a third in just under a decade, while more people than ever feel safe in their neighbourhood.
“We have taken action to protect the police revenue budget in real terms, safeguarding policing from Westminster cuts, with an additional £100 million of investment by the end of this Parliament.”
They added: “Police numbers in Scotland remain significantly above the level in 2007. Scotland has some 900 more officers, in contrast to England and Wales where more than 20,000 posts have been cut in the same period.”
Overall the number of sexual crimes rose 12.2 per cent to 12,487, including a 19.9 per cent increase in rapes, with 2,136 recorded. The number of rapes of girls aged between 13 and 15 increased by 44.9 per cent from 176 to 255. Nearly 40 per cent of all rapes reported to police were non-recent, but 22 per cent were reported within two days of the offence being committed – the highest percentage since 2013-14.
Police said the number of detections for rape had increased on the previous year and in both the three-year and five-year averages.
The force also highlighted the increasing risk of cyber crime, with a 17.9 per cent rise in the number of fraud incidents reported. Police said there was also evidence of a rising “cyber-enabled” element to sexual offending.
Interim Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “Our Policing 2026 strategy made it clear that the demands on policing are changing, with many crimes enabled by new technologies. Our priority is to keep people safe and we are adapting the way we work to enable us to better respond to the increase in online crime.
“We are investing in our cyber capabilities to ensure we are properly equipped to meet the modern challenges in keeping Scottish communities safe. We have dedicated cyber-crime units and work in partnership with national and international partners to tackle this growing threat.
“Levels of satisfaction and public confidence have remained very high and people will continue to see uniformed officers in their communities. We are moving officers from back office roles onto the frontline, but frontline policing has also moved into the virtual world where an increasing number of crimes are being committed.”