THERE’S been a spike in shoplifting in Dunfermline as the cost-of-living crisis begins to bite.

Members of the City of Dunfermline Area committee were given an update on offences in the city by area commander Joanne McEwan on Tuesday.

Speaking to councillors, Chief Inspector McEwan said there had been a “significant rise” in acquisitive crime over the past year.

“Theft by shoplifting has continued to show a significant rise, up 17 per cent from the previous reporting period,” she stated. “This is mainly due to people being back out in the community and potentially the cost-of-living rises as the majority of thefts are food, alcohol and clothing-related.

“During the past year, many parts of our day-to-day life have moved online and, as a result of this, online frauds have continued to target the community.

“The numbers have remained constant with 181 occurring in the last two years. This relates to almost one report every two days in the Dunfermline area alone.

“Already, in week 21 for 2022/23, there has been an increase of 14 per cent over the current reporting period.”

Ch Insp McEwan said the latest offences had seen victims receive messages purporting to be from relatives in need of assistance.

“Recent incidents have seen groups contacting victims on social media apps claiming to be a child or relative of the victim who is in some kind of situation and lost their phone.

“The perpetrator asks for money to be transferred to a friend’s account so that they can buy a new phone or use it to resolve the fictitious problem they are facing.

“These types of crimes are normally perpetrated by groups outwith the UK. This makes it difficult to detect and causes significant distress and embarrassment to the victims, as well as potential financial loss.

“Work is ongoing to highlight online scams to ensure public awareness, as well as providing support and reassurance to those affected. We have carried out leaflet drops to the more vulnerable members of our community, coupled with community safety officer visits to vulnerable persons who have been victim of this type of crime.”

Over the past year, there has been a “sharp increase” in missing person cases – a rise of 66 per cent – which Ch Insp McEwan said was due to a “wide range” of factors.

“The main ones are mental health or an act of mental distress but also young people missing from home without permission of parents or guardians,” she explained.

“Often, there will be the same person missing on several occasions. On these occasions, we normally rely on partners to work to reduce risk of that person.

“The rise on previous years we would put down to a return to normality – we are very much back to business as usual in terms of demands on the police service.”

Dunfermline has seen an increase in minor assaults of around 15 per cent – approximately 100 crimes – in the past year which is also put down to a return to normal life after the pandemic.

“A return to people gathering in public spaces, the night-time economy and also private spaces, which is more challenging to prevent – it is not a rise that is giving cause for concern,” added the police chief.

One area with improved figures was the number of calls relating to anti-social behaviour.

In 2020/21, there were 5,425 calls made, however, this year saw a 20 per cent reduction with 4,346 instances recorded.