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The police have told an MSP they are continuing to investigate crimes targeting rural businesses and are ‘concerned at the increase in dishonesties in a concentrated area of the Highlands’.
The response came after Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant contacted Police Scotland following reports that criminals were singling out small businesses in the region due to the lack of facilities to bank cash.
Mrs Grant previously raised the issue in Holyrood asking what the Scottish Government was doing to support Highlands and Islands businesses experiencing losses due to cuts in rural banking services.
Iain MacLelland, operational superintendent for the Highlands and Islands Division, got back to Mrs Grant who asked about break-ins in Fort Augustus, but also about other crimes in rural locations across the Highlands, Perthshire and Tayside.
He said one of the key messages to businesses was about not keeping cash on premises.
Mr MacLelland said: ‘With regard to your question on what action we are taking to make businesses aware of the recent break-ins, please be assured we are taking this matter very seriously.
‘Like you, we have been concerned at the increase in dishonesties in a concentrated area of the Highlands. We immediately put in place an action plan committing experienced investigative resources to the respective inquiries.
‘Detailed work has been carried out including extensive search activity and forensic work. These inquiries remain ongoing and I am receiving regular updates on progress.’
And he went on to say that having identified a crime pattern, considerable prevention work had been carried out, including repeated messaging in the media to raise awareness.
‘Our preventions officers have been door-stepping individual premises in the locality which have been repeatedly targeted providing practical advice on business security, CCTV and generally how to keep their premises safe,’ added Mr MacLelland.
‘The preventions officer, community sergeant and myself were also attending a well-represented community council meeting to discuss concerns with residents and businesses.
‘Please note that one of the key messages to businesses was about not keeping cash on premises. We continue to provide support to the community and maintain patrols in the area.’
Mrs Grant commented: ‘These criminals have quickly realised that bank branch closures and cutbacks are having a knock-on effect on the ability of businesses to bank cash.
‘The big banks should hang their heads in shame for pulling out of villages and towns in the region, leaving smaller shops and stores exposed to criminals who are rubbing their hands in glee at their good fortune.
‘The police have promised to get back to me with some figures on how many of these crimes are being recorded which I will be interested to see.
‘It’s good to see that there is crime prevention work on-going but I still think that the Scottish Government should be investigating how to help businesses especially during these difficult economic times.’