Recorded crime has risen by 13% in the Borders, new figures have revealed.
The rise - from 3047 to 3448 between April 1 2017 and March 31 this year, compared to the same period in 2016-17 - was the biggest percentage increase of any council area in Scotland.
Tory MP John Lamont has blamed SNP cuts and the “shambolic” creation of Police Scotland for the surge, which includes a 20% increase in sex offences, housingbreaking up by 17% and other crimes, including offences involving weapons and drugs, rising by 29%.
Mr Lamont said: “Some of these figures are truly shocking. A 20% rise in sexual offences and a 17% rise in housebreaking in just one year needs to be taken very seriously.
“It is no coincidence that crime is on the rise just as the SNP have slashed local police numbers and officers are increasingly filling in paperwork as police staff have been cut.
“The shambles surrounding the creation of Police Scotland has not been good for the Borders. The council has stepped in to create their own local policing team, but these figures just go to show that the Scottish Government’s approach to justice is failing our communities.”
However, local officers highlighted a reduction in non-sexual violent crimes, from 95 recorded incidents to 81, and said increased reporting had played a part in the number of domestic and sexual crimes recorded.
Chief Inspector Andy McLean said: “The Quarter 4 crime statistics for the Scottish Borders demonstrate some very positive results that reflects the outstanding work local officers have been carrying out within the division, often in collaboration with our key partners and stakeholders.
“One of Police Scotland’s continued priorities is to tackle violence and we have seen a 15% reduction in such offences within the Borders. We will not become complacent with this success however, and will continue to utilise all resources at our disposal to reduce violent crime further.
“We have seen a rise in the number of domestic incidents and sexual crimes reported to police, but historically these incidents were under reported and I am hopeful that this increase reflects the confidence victims have in the services that are available to them in the Borders.”
The figures apply to the period leading up to the introduction of the community policing team, paid for by Scottish Borders Council, to tackle local issues including anti-social behaviour.