CRIMES reported in East Lothian have risen for the third year in a row.

Newly-released figures show that recorded crime has gone up by four per cent in 2017/18 compared to the year before.

Overall there has been a 10 per cent rise since 2014-15, when Police Scotland recorded 3,415 crimes across the county, with the figure now sitting at 3,757.

Chief Inspector Steven Duncan, area commander for East Lothian, stressed that it was important to look at “the context behind these figures”.

Crimes of dishonesty, such as shoplifting, fraud and theft of motor vehicles, saw some of the most dramatic increases. Overall, crimes of dishonesty rose by over six per cent in the last year.

Police Scotland found that crimes related to drugs had also risen in the last year.

However, crimes against public justice have seen the biggest rise, as incidence of crimes such as perjury and fleeing from the police have risen by more than 30 per cent.

CI Duncan said: “Although the statistics published by the Scottish Government show a four per cent rise in total crimes and a seven per cent rise in crimes of dishonesty for East Lothian, the context behind these figures is important.

“Shoplifting, for example, has seen a significant increase for the area as a direct consequence of local businesses highlighting the problems they were experiencing to us.

“We introduced a dedicated shoplifting initiative team to target this issue, which has seen the number of crimes we record increase, as invariably the investigation into one crime often leads to the identification of others.

“We have introduced ‘Shop Watch’ initiatives in Musselburgh, and will be rolling this out across other towns in the county, working with businesses and other partner agencies to try and prevent crimes in the future.”

The officer also pointed out that there had been a reduction in domestic housebreakings – 13 per cent in the last five years – after local residents highlighted the issue as a priority.

Similarly, there has been a 16 per cent reduction in non-sexual crimes of violence; an 18 per cent drop in sexual crimes; and a five per cent reduction in fire-raising and vandalism.

CI Duncan added: “I welcome an increase in recorded drug offences, which shows that we are acting on intelligence being provided by the community and demonstrating our pro-active efforts in this area of policing.

“Tackling substance misuse is again a locally identified priority, but the more we do will naturally see an increase to recorded crime in this area, and the overall recorded crime figures.

“Overall, despite an increasing population and increased demands on policing and other services in the county, East Lothian remains one of the safest places in Scotland to reside in, work in and visit.”

However, Michelle Ballantyne, Conservative MSP for South Scotland, expressed her concerns about the figures.

She felt it showed a “soft-touch approach to justice” was being taken by the Scottish Government.

The MSP added: “There has been a significant rise in crime in East Lothian and across Scotland.

“Local businesses will be concerned about the noticeable rise in shoplifting we’ve seen recently.”

Iain Gray (Labour), the county’s MSP, said: “These figures show SNP cuts to local policing and their decision to close our court in East Lothian are misguided and damaging.

“When SNP ministers closed Haddington court we warned it would damage local justice.

“We are now beginning to feel the impact of that short-sighted decision.

“At the same time, the SNP Government has cut police resources, making it harder for local police officers to fight crime.

“It is essential the SNP starts giving brave police officers the resources they need to keep people safe.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Scotland’s streets are now safer and less violent than they were a decade ago.

“Crime recorded by the police in East Lothian has fallen by almost a fifth (18 per cent) between 2008-09 and 2017-18, and the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey shows the overall level of crime, including crime not reported to the police, has fallen by nearly a third (32 per cent) since 2008/09.

“Police numbers [nationally] remain high, with more than 900 more officers compared to 2007, while the number of officers in England and Wales has fallen by almost 20,000.”