Crime figures revealed a rise in vandalism and assaults in Stirling and a fall in robberies and domestic abuse.
The latest data released by Police Scotland deals with the first quarter of 2021 as the country began to emerge from the restrictive measures of the pandemic.
The number of the most serious ‘group one’ crimes – which includes murder, robberies and incidents of domestic abuse – have fallen to 34 in quarter one of 2021, compared to 49 for the same point in 2020.
Sexual crimes have also fallen in Stirling, with six rapes and attempted rapes reported in the first three months of the year, compared to 16 during the same period in 2020.
However there are areas of concern for the city’s top cops – with reported incidents of vandalism and malicious mischief up from 121 for the reported period in 2020 to 162 in 2021.
The number of common assaults reported in Stirling is also up, with 157 reported in quarter one this year compared to 131 at the same point in 2020, with the number of assaults on emergency workers remaining at 28.
In response, a Police Scotland spokesperson told the Observer that the vandalism figures for 2021 had been impacted by a change in the way incidents are reported and local officers had not identified “particular patterns or repeat locations”.
But Chief Inspector Gill Marshall, who is the area commander for Stirling, said a rise in assaults locally had emphasised the “unprecedented circumstances” of the pandemic on local policing efforts.
Chief Insp Marshall said: “We are aware of the disruptive impact antisocial behaviour and associated issues such as vandalism, has on a community.
“Local officers work closely with partners to address these issues and find meaningful long-term solutions.
“Dedicated patrols are carried out in areas highlighted to us with officers providing reassurance to the community as well as engaging with people and discouraging antisocial behaviour.
“We are committed to encouraging people away from this kind of behaviour but will take appropriate action where incidents are reported and offenders identified.
“Anyone who has concerns about anti-social behaviour in their area is encouraged to contact police by calling 101 as promptly as possible.
“The last year was unprecedented for us all and the figures for the number of assaults recorded in Stirling show the influence of the pandemic on our local policing.
“The number of assaults recorded in the recent Q1 figures are significantly below the five year average for Stirling and the increase year on year between the same periods in 2020 and 2021 is a reflection of the unprecedented circumstances created by the pandemic.
Chief Insp Marshall added: “That said, we fully recognise the impact of each and every violent incident and remain committed to reducing incidents and detecting offenders.”
Across Forth Valley, there was a slight reduction in the number of total crimes reported to 3,029 in 2021 from 3,096 the previous year.
There has been a rise in violent and sexual crimes and this has been reflected across the regional stats – with seven more rapes, 20 more sexual assaults and 21 more indecent assaults.
However, local efforts to target sexual crime offenders have led to a 1.5 percentage point rise in the detection rate for sexual crimes.
Chief Superintendent Alan Gibson, Divisional Commander for Forth Valley, said: “While I recognise that any rise in crime rates will raise concerns for our communities, we must be pragmatic when comparing this data to the previous year, when lockdown restrictions were at their most stringent.
“It’s very encouraging to see positive results in terms of reductions in housebreaking and drug crime and we remain committed to appropriately tackling the issues within our division currently subject to increased reporting.
“I wish to thank our call handlers, as well as my own officers and staff, who continue to work with dedication and professionalism as we continue our journey out of Covid restrictions.”