DCSIMG

Crime rising as police station counters closed

There has been a 54 per cent surge in housebreakings in the Portobello/Craigmallar ward. Picture: Ian Georgeson

There has been a 54 per cent surge in housebreakings in the Portobello/Craigmallar ward. Picture: Ian Georgeson

FOUR of the city neighbourhoods set to be hit by police station counter closures and cutbacks have been blighted by rises in crime.

Five stations in the Capital, including Craigmillar, Corstorphine and Oxgangs, are threatened with having their front desks shut and another three, including Portobello, will see their opening hours slashed as part of a controversial shake-up by Police Scotland.

But figures show the Portobello/Craigmillar ward recorded a 1 per cent increase in offences in 2011/12, including a 54 per cent surge in housebreakings. Corstorphine/Murrayfield posted a two per cent climb against the previous year, with serious assaults and rape cases among those seeing an increase.

And Oxgangs’ crime rates grew four per cent over the same period, according to the most recently available figures.

The police station in Oxgangs could close its ­public counter, while Craigmillar and Corstorphine stations will transfer their operations to local community hubs.

Across Portobello/Craigmillar, crimes of dishonesty, such as housebreakings and car theft, climbed by 12 per cent, hitting 1270 against the previous figure of 1131. Violent crime was up 33 per cent in Corstorphine/Murrayfield for the year, from 18 to 24 incidents, while sexual crimes soared by 58 per cent, from 19 to 30.

In the Oxgangs ward, crimes such as vandalism and fireraisings saw the biggest increases – up 28 per cent from 213 to 273.

Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said closing police station counters in areas where crime was increasing made no sense. She said: “We’ve already said how important it is to have community policing, which is all about accessibility and visibility. But it’s even more important in areas where crime is rising .What on earth do they think they can achieve by closing police ­station public counters where the number of ­incidents is going up? How is that ­contributing to cutting crime rates in these areas? It’s nonsensical.”

Last week, the Evening News posed key questions about the Police Scotland plans, including what alternative services would be provided and how the changes would aid community policing. Today, Edinburgh area commander Chief Superintendent Mark Williams responded, claiming the police would remain at the heart of the community despite the closures and cutbacks.

Police Scotland justifies the closures and cutbacks by claiming fewer people are using police stations to report crime, opting instead to use phone and email.

But the Evening News revealed that more than 100,000 people a year use the ten stations in Lothian which are to have their counters axed – including 73,000 a year using the five Edinburgh stations.

Police chiefs claim a tiny percentage of visits to stations can be classed as “core” demands – matters which can only be dealt with face to face in a station. But their definition of core demand has been called into question since Freedom of Information requests are described as “core” while reporting a crime or an ­accident are classed as 
“ancillary demand”. Civic leaders are set to quiz top cop Sir Stephen House about the closures tomorrow.

Public views will help shape service

POLICE Scotland have launched an online survey that promises to “shape policing in the Capital”.

People who live and work in Edinburgh are being asked their views in a series of questions – including how they would prefer to contact police in non-emergencies.

The public consultation – which will run until Christmas Eve – asks for the public’s top-four priorities for crime-fighting or prevention such as antisocial behaviour, road safety and violent crime.

It asks by which means people prefer to get in touch using methods such as email, social media, telephone and in person at police stations.

And bosses have pledged to use the survey results to determine how policing is delivered across the city until 2017.

Superintendent Matt Richards said it would help to develop the policing plan so it was vital the public played a role. And he said if the public response favoured using local police stations, that would be taken into account.

“If that is something that comes back to us then it is something that is going to be taken into consideration,” he said. “Essentially, it will be the public who come back to us and give us our priorities.”

He said previous consultations had led parts of the policing plan to be realigned with what the public wanted, including alcohol being listed as a bigger issue in the Capital than drugs.

He said: “A lot of people said alcohol caused more antisocial behaviour than drugs. We have been using the bylaw, and doing more stop and searches in terms of antisocial behaviour because this was a

priority.

“The public will have seen a larger number of police officers on a Saturday night, more attendances at licensed premises to build up that public confidence.”

Consultation sessions will be held at venues across the city and community groups and businesses and other organisations will be contacted in order to canvass views. Quiz sheets will also be made available so people without access to the internet can take part. The information will be analysed in January by Police Scotland and the council.

Councillor Mike Bridgman, convener of the interim police and fire committee, said: “We welcome the opportunity residents are being given to comment on the new plan.”

To complete the survey click here

Ten police stations in Lothians to be axed

Frank Boyle cartoon: the effect of police station closures

How you can help

Back the campaign by displaying a poster and signing the petition, which is already available to sign at several locations including:

• The Mill at St Joseph’s, the cafe beside Balerno Parish Church;

• Balerno Garage Ltd, Deanpark Brae;

• Sideburns Barber Shop, Oxgangs Broadway, Oxgangs;

• Craigmillar Post Office, Niddrie Mains Road.

To receive a petition and poster e-mail kate.pickles@jpress.co.uk or call 0131-620 8733, or call into the offices at 108 Holyrood Road.

You can also download a poster by clicking here

Email the following to SoS@edinburghnews.com along with your name and address

“Dear Sir Stephen House,

I want my local police station to stay open to the public. Please think again.”

Q&A: Mark Williams, Divisional Commander, City of Edinburgh

In last Thursday’s edition of the Evening News, Police Scotland was posed a number of questions in relation to proposals to change the front counter opening hours of stations across Edinburgh. As Divisional Commander for the city, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to these and to give more details to members of the public who may have concerns.

First of all, this consultation is not about closing police stations. It is about reviewing the demand on their front counters and adjusting opening times to ensure we make the best use of our resources. Currently, over 40 per cent of stations in Edinburgh receive fewer than five visits a day from members of the public with a “core policing inquiry.”

Q What alternative will be provided for people who would usually go to their local police station to report a crime?

A Local police officers are still contactable in a number of different ways. Our non-emergency number, 101, allows people to access a range of services and advice from Police Scotland, however in an emergency you should always dial 999. Every police station in Edinburgh has a telephone on the outside of the building which allows the caller to be immediately connected to our Area Control Room at Bilston. We are also building our online presence and use of social media, and we currently have over 300,000 followers across Scotland. Community Officers regularly attend community surgeries and meetings across the city as well as regularly patrolling around their local areas.

Q What alternative arrangements will be made for matters like answering bail?

A We work closely with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal and Scottish Courts Service and will inform them in good time of any confirmed closure or restriction on the hours of front counter business at a particular station. Individuals will not be bailed to appear at a station that is closed or does not have adequate opening times.

Q What hours will the police desks at the community hubs in Craigmillar and Corstorphine be open?

A The exact provision of a local service within the partnership hubs in both Corstorphine and Craigmillar is currently being considered to ensure that the service is tailored to meet the needs of these communities. We are also considering other innovative ways to reach the communities of Edinburgh.

We know the importance of being visible and reaching members of the public at a time and place that is convenient for them. Footfall in places like hubs, libraries and supermarkets is significantly higher than police stations, and these are places that we may use in the

future to further improve our

engagement.

Q How do the changes help community policing?

A Policing within local communities is at the heart of everything we do to keep people safe. We are looking at ways to make better use of our resources and ensure that officers are on duty at the right times to meet public demand. The proposed changes to the public counter service will allow us to put as many police officers as possible out on the streets.

Q How many job losses are involved in the proposals?

A None. The Scottish Government has pledged no compulsory redundancies for public sector staff, which includes police staff.

Q Will the remaining counters be staffed by police officers or civilians?

A Officers will not be used to staff public counters unless there is an operational need to do so. Police Scotland is committed to protecting front-line policing.

Q What assurances are there that station buildings will not be mothballed altogether?

A This review is about public counter services, and is not about closing stations.

Q How much money will the changes save?

A In the current financial year, across Scotland, it is expected that the changes will make savings of approximately £1.5m. This will rise to in excess of £4.3m per year thereafter.

 

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