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Police seizures of drugs, weapons and alcohol increase by third

Seizures of drugs, weapons and alcohol have increased by a third despite a slight fall in the number of people being searched, according to Police Scotland.

Police searched 519,213 people in the eight months after Police Scotland was formed in April last year and came up with a "positive result" in nearly a fifth (19.7%) of cases.

Scotland's old eight forces searched roughly the same number of people in the last eight months of 2012 but only found something in around one in seven cases (13.9%).

Police Scotland say the rise in positive searches demonstrates "real progress in building safer communities".

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said stop-and-search is "a preventative and proportionate approach" which "can stop crime in its tracks and save dealing with the consequences later".

Speaking in Holyrood in November, Mr MacAskill said there are "no targets for numbers of searches, although helpfully there are percentage targets for positive searches".

Today's figures indicate that there has been no rise in the number of searches, recording a 0.2% fall, but that police are recording more "positive searches".

More than 90% of searches related to drugs, alcohol and weapons.

Some 37% of searches to detect firearms yielded a positive result, with 166 firearms or associated items recovered, and 4,273 weapons including knives were seized.

About a third yielded stolen property with more than 11,000 goods recovered. Alcohol was the most prevalent item at 37%, with 61,541 recoveries.

Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson said: "As these figures demonstrate, Police Scotland is making real progress in building safer communities across the country by reducing crimes of violence and tackling anti-social behaviour by removing the materials associated with offences of this nature from our streets.

"Stop and search is one of a number of tactics that frontline police officers within our communities are able to apply, if and when they have reasonable grounds to do so.

"Searches are targeted and intelligence-led, and often conducted with the consent of those involved.

"The decision to conduct a stop and search can and has in many cases resulted in harmful weapons, dangerous drugs and stolen property being recovered, and is vital to ensuring that Police Scotland can continue to keep people safe."

Mr MacAskill said: "Police Scotland's priority is to keep our streets and communities safe.

"By taking a preventative and proportionate approach, proactively disrupting and deterring criminal behaviour, police can stop crime in its tracks and save dealing with the consequences later.

"Stop and search is one tactic amongst many police use to cut crime and Police Scotland's positive results so far suggest this is working.

"This builds on our most recent crime stats, which show violent crime falling by 47% between 2006/7 and 2012/13, and crimes of handling an offensive weapon at the lowest in 27 years, dropping by 60% in the same period.

"The experience in Fife and elsewhere in the country shows that, working with communities, stop and search can stop criminal behaviour before it happens, take weapons and drugs off the streets, and potentially save lives."

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