This piece investigates trends in criminal prosecutions in nineteenth-century Scotland and considers whether fears of a crime epidemic which were prevalent in England at that time were also relevant in the northern context. Using legal prosecutions for robbery more specifically, the article offers an analysis of indictment trends which suggests the existence of a paradox in Scottish criminality, where in a context of heightened awareness and intensified concern about criminality (especially in relation to violent offences) the incidence of this type of criminality declined after the mid-point of the century. The piece also offers an investigation of the nature and incidence of robbery in Scotland during the nineteenth century and determines how the crime was carried out, by whom, and for what purpose. Comparisons are drawn between the Scottish and English experience of violent theft in order to establish certain distinctive characteristics about how robbery was committed north of the Tweed and to reason why a wider and more detailed analysis of crime in nineteenth-century Scotland is warranted. Finally, the article offers some explanations for the decline in robbery and other violent offences in Scotland after 1850, including reference to the 'civilising process' hypothesis which merits closer attention in the context of Scottish criminal history. © The Scottish Historical Review Trust 2013.