Officers launch new city centre grotto in bid to reduce crime at Christmas

Police in Edinburgh have set up their own 'grotto' in St Andrew's Square to ensure that people enjoy a safe holiday season.

Police in Edinburgh have set up their own 'grotto' in St Andrew's Square to ensure that people enjoy a safe holiday season.

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SpRINKLEd with fairy lights and draped in tinsel, St Andrew Square’s new Christmas grotto looks like the perfect haven for Santa.

But over the next month, the specially built cabin will be a base for police officers patrolling the city during the festive period.

Edinburgh Christmas ice rink in St Andrew Square. Picture; Ian Georgeson

Edinburgh Christmas ice rink in St Andrew Square. Picture; Ian Georgeson

Following what they hailed a successful summer operation – which reduced crime in Edinburgh significantly – Police Scotland are hopeful Operation Winter City will keep crime at bay over the party season.

The grotto, situated across from Harvey Nichols in St Andrew Square, will be open from 11am until 10pm daily, except on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

Members of the public can drop in to obtain useful prevention information and public safety leaflets.

It is hoped it will mirror the effectiveness of the summer cabin, which was situated in Princes Street Gardens during the festival.

Purse bells to detect pickpockets can also be picked up from the grotto, as well as a selection of goodies for children.

Superintendent Lesley Clark, from the Edinburgh Division, said: “This is an amazing city to live in and visit during the festive period and, for the first time, we’ll have a base within the centre of the celebrations.

“It’s very similar to what we did during the summer, it’s about having a presence in a very busy place of Edinburgh. It gives the public reassurance and it’s a place for them to go.

“What we will be offering is really helpful information aimed at keeping people safe throughout their Christmas and New Year preparations and celebrations.”

Following a large police presence over the summer, officers saw a 56 per cent decrease in serious assault, as well as a 73 per cent decline in robbery.

The number of serious assaults dropped from 18 in the summer of 2015, to just eight this year, and the number of robbery’s declined from 15 to four.

Crimes of violence also decreased by 23 per cent and common assault decreased by 16 per cent.

Superintendent Clark believes having more police on patrol will “mirror” the success of the summer operation. She said: “Following on from Operation Summer City we realised this was the right thing to do, having a police presence that meets the demand of the public.

“Part of our motivation is to make sure the police are at the right places at the right times with a view to not only detecting, but preventing crime.

“Antisocial behaviour and violence all went down during Summer City and those are crimes we normally see rising.”

Operation Winter City began yesterday and will run until Saturday, January 7.

Over the next few weeks officers will issue various messages to help people to stay safe at home, online, while out partying and when shopping.

To help promote these key messages, the division has created a special ‘Countdown to Christmas’ calendar for social media, which launches on December 1.

The star of the calendar is PD Chase – an eight-month-old German Shepherd – who will appear in a range of scenarios aimed at providing relevant safety advice during the festive season.

courtney.cameron@jpress.co.uk