Scotland is crime capital of Europe, says report

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SCOTLAND is still the violent crime capital of Europe, despite offending falling as a whole, a new report has warned.

• Report says more violent crime being solved

• Increase in domestic violence down to greater willingness to come forward, say police

A quarter of crime north of the border is violent, compared to 23 per cent in England and Wales.

That is despite crime falling to a 35-year low and incidents of violence down across all eight forces.

The report, which was co-written by Audit Scotland and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Constabulary in Scotland, also warns police face major challenges before merging to a single force in April next year.

They include making further strides to tackle violent crime, as well as providing better value for money and improved scrutiny by councillors.

Domestic abuse, in particular, rose sharply in 2011/12 to almost 120 incidents per 10,000 population, although police believe this may be partly down to more victims being willing to report crimes.

The report found violent crime is higher per head of population in Scotland, than England and Wales, or elsewhere in Europe.

The report’s authors wrote: “For most types of crime, incidents in Scotland tend to be comparably lower in Scotland than in England and Wales.

“However, violent crimes per head of population continue to be higher in Scotland than elsewhere in Europe.”

They added: “Data from both the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey and the British Crime Survey shows that 25 per cent of crime in Scotland in 2010/11 was violent, compared with 23 per cent in England and Wales.

“Indeed the Scottish Government’s strategy for justice in Scotland identifies that levels of homicide per head of population are higher than elsewhere in the UK and Europe.”

However, it also identified positives with more violent crime being solved by police.

“Detection rates across the country have remained fairly constant for most types of crimes in recent years,” the report’s authors wrote.

“Detection levels of violent and racially aggravated crimes have improved most significantly.”

The Scottish Government has helped reduce crime by putting 1,000 extra bobbies on the beat since 2007.

Meanwhile, the Violence Reduction Unit, which started in Glasgow but is now Scotland-wide, has successfully challenged territorial gang behaviour in deprived communities.

The unit achieved a 46.5 per cent reduction in violence involving the youngsters they worked with, and an 85 per cent reduction in weapon carrying, in the two years after its launch in October 2008.

However, the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps) has previously urged the new national chief constable, Steve House, to make violent crime his priority, even outsourcing areas such as litter and escorting large vehicles so that police can focus on it.

Meanwhile, the authors of the report, Best value in police authorities and police forces in Scotland, said current good practice among the eight forces should not be lost in the move to one.

Andrew Laing, HMICS, said: “The police service in Scotland is undergoing the most significant organisational change in its history.

“I am confident that it will retain its considerable strengths, such as community policing, but close attention is now needed to ensure effective accountability, scrutiny and inspection are maintained.”

John Baillie, chairman of the Accounts Commission, added: “Looking forward to the new policing structure, it is clear that important lessons can be learned from what we have at present.

“It is critical that the respective roles of the Scottish Police Authority, the Police Service of Scotland, local authorities and their partners are clearly understood and that policing services are managed in accordance with well-established principles of good governance and accountability.”

A spokesman for the Police Service of Scotland vowed that “best practice” would be continue : “Violent crime will continue to be tackled, whatever guise it takes and wherever it exists - domestic violence, gang-related violence, drink-fuelled violence or weapons-related violence - we will continue our efforts.

“Offenders will be targeted and victims given the support and protection they need. We will look at best practice across the country and apply it.”

Critics have warned the report highlights how much still needs to be done before April next year.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont MSP said: “There are only a few months before this comes in, and we shouldn’t be leaving it so late to make sure everyone’s ready.

“Most people’s number one concern about this is the fact local elements of their policing may be eroded.

“This report will only intensify those worries – we need our local councils and councillors to know exactly what they should be doing and how everything works before this comes into place.”