Police chief warns against funding cut

Chief Superintendent Mark Williams says community police officers play a vital role
Chief Superintendent Mark Williams says community police officers play a vital role
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A POLICE chief has warned safety will be put at risk if an expected funding cut for community policing goes ahead.

Outlining vital work grassroot bobbies do in a dossier designed to soften a £500,000 funding cut from Edinburgh City Council, Chief Superintendent Mark Williams said his thin blue line was “integral” to policing in Edinburgh.

We revealed last year how the Labour-SNP coalition intend to trim their hefty six- figure annual contribution to the scheme amid concerns council-funded personnel were being diverted to other duties.

However, top cops have hit back with a report detailing the work carried out by officers – saying it all risks being lost if the cash disappears.

Claiming the council’s 
£2.7 million a year pays for around 44 community constables and 12 city-centre officers, Ch Supt Williams said: “With a total of 204 community constables across the city, the council funds provide for almost 22 per cent of community policing in Edinburgh. These officers are integral to community safety.

“Funded officers work from all stations in the division, but following the most recent rearrangement of resources in 2010, more funded staff were aligned to stations covering the areas with most deprivation and crime demand. Wester Hailes, Leith, Drylaw, Craigmillar, Howdenhall and St Leonard’s have the highest percentage of community posts.”

Ch Supt Williams said funded staff were involved in a high-profile operation in the west of the city, targeting vandalism, assault, drugs and licensed premises which helped cut minor assaults by 58 per cent and vandalism by 23 per cent.

The officers also provided local knowledge for another operation to combat theft which saw 48 arrests across the city’s six neighbourhood areas, with 176 crimes solved and £60,000 worth of stolen goods recovered.

He said council-funded officers made up 20 per cent of the city centre team, which is heavily involved in public safety and tackling disorder. They also helped achieve a 63 per cent increase in the recovery of knives.

But the council has pointed out that even if the cut goes ahead, Edinburgh will still give more to community policing than any other council across Scotland. Council leader Andrew Burns said: “Given the financial pressures we face, it makes sense to take a rational look at it all.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com