Recorded crime at 39-year-low in Scotland
There has been a further fall in the number of crimes in Scotland, according to the latest figures.
The Scottish government statistics show, in the year to the end of March, there was a 13% drop in recorded crime.
Non-sexual violent crimes fell by 21%. But there was a 5% rise in the number of sex offences - although changes in the way they are categorised may have affected the figures.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said it was evidence of a "safer" Scotland.
He added: "It is particularly encouraging to see violent crime dropping by 21% last year and crimes of handling an offensive weapon down by 60% since 2006-07.
"However, make no mistake, there will be no let-up in our efforts backed by record numbers of police officers - over 1,000 extra since 2007 - who are keeping communities safe and clearing up crimes more efficiently than ever before."
In 2012-13, a total of 273,053 crimes were recorded by police across Scotland, a drop of more than 41,000 (13%) compared with 2011-12.
2012/13 Scottish crime figures
- Recorded crime down 13%
- Non-sexual violence down 21%
- Sexual offences up 5%
- Dishonesty crimes down 12%
- Vandalism down 21%
- Other Crimes down 8%
- Handling offensive weapons down 29%
- Clear-up rate up at 51%
Source: Scottish government stats
Incidents of violent crime, including murder, culpable homicide, attempted murder and serious assault totalled 7,530 - a 21% drop on last year's figure.
Crimes of handling an offensive weapon were at a 27-year-low.
However, the number of sexual offences recorded by officers rose 5% to 7,693.
Officials said the new Sexual Offences Act meant sex crimes were now categorised in a different way so comparisons over time should be "treated with caution".
The figures also show a slight rise in the number of offences, which include driving and minor alcohol offences, of less than 1%.
The clear up rate for crimes across Scotland last year was 51% - its highest level since 1976.'Traumatic crimes'
Mr MacAskill said: "We are continuing to work tirelessly to reduce knife crime and violence in Scotland, and believe education and prevention are key to tackling the root causes of violence.
"While today's overall statistics are encouraging, it is concerning to see that the number of sexual offences recorded by police have increased by 5%.
Crime figures by police force
- Central - 14,056 - down 14%
- Dumfries & Galloway - 5,350 - down 11%
- Grampian - 25,866 - down 12%
- Fife - 15,230 - down 15%
- Lothian & Borders - 48,789 - down 13%
- Northern Constabulary - 11,355 - down 16%
- Strathclyde - 133,601 - down 14%
- Tayside - 17,806 - down 6%
Source: Scottish government stats
"This may be down to increased reporting but the public should be assured that the Scottish government, police and prosecutors take the investigation and prosecution of these traumatic crimes extremely seriously and are taking action to address them."
The figures are the last set for Scotland's former eight police forces. From 1 April 2013 they were merged to form the new Police Scotland single force.
Across all eight of the former forces, crime rates were down.
In Strathclyde there were 133,601 crimes recorded in 2012-13 - a fall of 14% compared with the previous year. Northern Constabulary saw a fall of 16%.
Dep Ch Con Rose Fitzpatrick, from Police Scotland, said: "Scotland is a very safe place.
"The statistics that are published today demonstrate that it is a great place in which to live and work and that policing in Scotland is very effective.
"This gives Police Scotland a very strong platform on which to build."'Very concerning'
The Scottish Conservatives raised concerns about the rise in the number of rapes and other sex crimes.
John Lamont MSP said: "It is extremely worrying that the numbers of rapes and attempted rapes have increased significantly.
"While this may be partly due to a greater number of victims willing to come forward, it is clearly very concerning that instances of rape are at an all-time high."
The Tories also pointed to the overall rise in offences for the second year in a row.
Mr Lamont added: "Last year, the SNP attempted to hide the overall rise in crime by quietly leaving out the number of offences committed.
"Kenny MacAskill can spin the figures anyway he likes, but the statistics do not lie.
"Until we know the full extent of the problem, we can't effectively tackle crime in Scotland."