Alcohol fuelling violent attacks on city streets

Policing Edinburgh at night. Picture: Tom Duffin
Policing Edinburgh at night. Picture: Tom Duffin
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THERE are a dozen violent attacks in the New Town every week, an Evening News investigation reveals today.

Statistics show there were 675 assaults in the area over the last year – fuelled by boozy brawls on nights out.

City centre beats packed with bars and clubs top the list of violent crime hotspots – prompting an analytical rethink by police.

“In terms of statistics, we identified areas where low-level disorder could potentially result in more serious violence,” said Insp David Robertson.

“We checked social media as well for where people felt unsafe. Where there was a problem we put officers out on high visibility patrols to intervene and prevent more serious violence.

“We monitor people’s 
behaviour and if we have a couple of groups having an argument or shouting at each other, we intervene and hopefully get them on their separate ways without a further problem.”

The new approach contributed to a drop in violent crime of more than 15 per cent in the Capital as a whole over the last year.

But attacks were up in the New Town with 593 common assaults, 51 serious assaults and 31 on police or other emergency workers. An assault is usually classed as “serious” according to the victim’s injuries – such as if stitches are needed.

Leith’s shorefront beat saw the most robberies over the last year, though numbers were low, with just 15 – down a third on the five-year average.

There was an alarming rise in attacks on emergency workers – most prevalent in beats 
covering St Leonard’s police station and the Royal Infirmary.

Insp Robertson said the early intervention approach was bearing positive results – as too were partnerships with council CCTV, taxi marshals, street pastors and others.

The CCTV network was his officers’ “eyes and ears”, he said, helping tip them off with any escalating trouble.

Bringing bar owners on board has also proven successful, with a new online system set to be launched which shares details of troublemakers between venues.

The Evening News went out on patrol with police on a typical Friday night at the height of summer.

Our first shout is a blue-light dash across the city to Niddry Street in the Old Town. A man has been turned away from the Hive nightclub before turning violent with door staff.

The burly 20-year-old is in handcuffs chatting to officers when we arrive. Seemingly in good spirits, if a little unsteady on his feet.

Later, a young woman, apparently the worse for wear, walks out in front of traffic and is hit by a car at the busy junction on the corner of Lothian Road and West Tollcross.

Miraculously, she escapes with a leg injury and is shaken but conscious when we arrive, being treated by 
paramedics.

Into the early hours of the morning and another spike in calls to police at chucking out time.

A woman is arrested after verbally abusing taxi marshals outside the Omni centre. Police then arrest a man outside the Atik nightclub in West Tollcross after he smashes a bottle in the street. Nearby, a patient turns violent with Street Assist volunteers who come to his aid.

“As a PC working the city centre beat ten or 15 years ago, we were dealing with instances of serious disorder constantly,” said Insp Robertson.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s a need for us out there and we do have demand but it’s to a much lesser extent.

“There are instances of serious assaults and we have dedicated CID to investigate and solve them but overall it feels a much safer place than in years gone by.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com