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Police chief says 'return to normality' has led to rise in crime in Badenoch and Strathspey

By Scott Maclennan

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A senior north police officer says the return to normality after Covid is directly linked to the year-on-year rise in crime in the strath.

But Inspector Vincent Tough was keen to draw attention to the fact most figures remained beneath the fire year average.

Police Scotland’s area inspector for Badenoch, Strathspey and Nairn described some of the detail around the numbers highlighting some positive developments at yesterday's meeting of Highland Council's area committee.

The period for the latest Police Scotland figures covers April 1 to September 30.

It saw a welcome increase in the number of detections for drugs supply, production and cultivation from 19 to 30 cases – meaning more drugs were taken off the streets.

He said the biggest rise was in the number of shoplifting offences which shot up from four to 16 over the period.

Inspector Tough put this down to an increase in the number of retail premises trading following the lockdowns.

The number of motorists caught speeding rose from 95 to 139 but was still well below the five year average of 446 motorists.

But he said falls in some motor crimes – such as a decline in drink and drug driving offences – indicating that the message was getting through.

The number of breaches of the peace and crimes involving threatening and abusive behaviour rose from nine to 19 – again the reopening of nightspots and more people going out were linked to the increases.

But the number of property break-ins fell from seven to three while sexual crimes including historical offences recorded in the reporting period fell from 12 – which is also the five-year average – to five.

Inspector Tough also added that both Covid and COP26 caused significant disruption in the deployment of officers with a number absent due to positive Covid tests or contacts reporting as well as the demand for personnel to police the climate conference in Glasgow.

He said: “The number of persons detected with drink or drug driving has dropped slightly which is good news though it is a fairly short review period.

"So hopefully that message is getting through to folk who are taking the chance of taking drugs getting behind the wheel.

“The number of people charged with speeding has gone up notably but still well below the normal figures for the area – again just the volume of traffic on the roads picking-up with restrictions easing is to be expected.

“Acquisitive crime – the number of house break-ins has gone down quite notably to three from seven over the period.

"Certain nominals have moved away from the area and certain nominals have been arrested. We will be stepping up the anti-crime patrols.

“The next figure there is shoplifting – they have gone up, the previous figure was four and it has gone up to 16 so that is quite a jump that is above the normal that the area has experienced.

“I have asked our preventions and interventions officer to do a review of those to see if we have got any particular premises that do get targeted or any particularly nominals that feature there.

“Violence and disorder offences, licensed premises checks are going up all the time as pubs become busier so that figure is in keeping with that.

"There has been a good increase in the number of people charged in possession of controlled drugs.

“Most of those are personal possession offences as there are more people out and about at the weekends and that is when these offences come to the fore.

“Breach of the peace offences – 19 offences – that is still in-keeping with the five year average figure but I would say we are finding the weekends just back to normal in terms of disorder and people getting arrested.

“Protection of vulnerable people and sexual offences crimes have gone down over the period which is really pleasing to see but recently there have been a number of offences so I think that could well pick-up again to the average figures we have seen."

Inspector Tough concluded: “For policing over that period it has been incredibly disrupted because we have people who have made a contact trace so we have had to move staff around the areas so we move our resources so we maintain a service level across the board.

“In the run-up to COP26 the disruption for that has been heavy and once things settle down we can start getting back to contacting schools and community councils and next year can be back to normal patterns of local engagement.”

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