North Edinburgh crime fight hailed by top cop Phil Gormley

Chief Constable Phil Gormley and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson visit the Banana Flats in Leith. Picture: Scott Taylor

Chief Constable Phil Gormley and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson visit the Banana Flats in Leith. Picture: Scott Taylor

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SCOTLAND’S new police chief has hailed “passionate and engaged” community officers in the north of the Capital after reported crime fell by a quarter.

Phil Gormley said during a visit to Leith that there was an awareness that Police Scotland must focus more on the challenges of local crime.

The local team here are passionate and engaged. They’re listening to what local people are telling them. As a result, we’ve seen a 25 per cent reduction in crime and an eight per cent reduction in antisocial behaviour.

Chief Constable Phil Gormley

He said the force had to “tailor” the service it offers to different communities.

Statistics released yesterday show there were 1700 fewer crimes in the north of the Capital in the past nine months when compared with the same period the year before.

The figures include a 19 per cent fall in domestic housebreaking and a 26 per cent drop in violent crime.

Formed in 2013, Police Scotland was initially accused of “Strathclydisation” by forcing the tactics of what was once the country’s largest force on other parts of the country.

That included a series of raids on Edinburgh’s saunas, which had previously been tolerated as part of the police’s approach to the sex trade in the Capital. There was also a 40 per cent spike in housebreaking after the national force disbanded specialist units set up by Lothian and Borders Police – a move that was later reversed.

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Speaking yesterday on a visit to Cables Wynd House in Leith, the tower block nicknamed the “Banana Flats” due to their shape, Mr Gormley said: “I think you’re seeing a fantastic example over the past year or so of how our service is tailored to the needs of the community.

“The local team here are passionate and engaged. They’re listening to what local people are telling them. As a result, we’ve seen a 25 per cent reduction in crime and an eight per cent reduction in antisocial behaviour. What we need to make sure is that our local service is relevant and understands the communities it serves.” He added: “Policing demand in a places like Edinburgh and Glasgow will be different from the Highlands and Islands and the Borders.

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The next part of the journey is making sure staff are able to tailor their services to those communities.

“Keeping the best of what was there before [Police Scotland] is absolutely the challenge.”

Police Scotland said vehicle-related crime had fallen by 34 per cent in the north of the Capital, while recorded crimes of possession of an offensive weapon are down by 47 per cent, and crimes of carrying a knife have reduced by 28 per cent.

Earlier this month, officers carried out a day of action in Cables Wynd after concerns were raised by local residents. The initiative saw officers from a number of different specialist units join up with community officers to stop vehicles, execute warrants and seize drugs.

Speaking after yesterday’s visit, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Community policing is the backbone of our police service and the work being done in north Edinburgh to tackle the issues that are of most concern to the communities in which they are based is very impressive.

“Policing has never been just about enforcement, with prevention and partnership at the very core of Police Scotland, including the partnerships with the communities. The fact that Police Scotland has highlighted these drops in crime just shows that it is a strategy that works.”