Police urged to tackle housebreakings in survey

Housebreaking was one of the top crimes which residents in the Capital want tackled. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Housebreaking was one of the top crimes which residents in the Capital want tackled. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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HOUSEBREAKING and antisocial behaviour are the top crimes which residents across the Capital want Police Scotland to tackle, according to the biggest survey ever conducted on policing in the city.

More than 6000 people were quizzed on what they want officers to crack down on within their local community over the next year.

Police chiefs have been tasked with drawing up “ward plans” to combat these crimes in each of Edinburgh’s 17 council divisions.

Violent crime, road safety and drugs were also among the local concerns pinpointed most in the survey, which was conducted by the force over a number of months.

Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, the city’s policing commander, said the survey results were the “road map” for how community policing would be carried out under the Local Policing Plan.

Police Scotland has come under fire after being accused of placing national tactics and priorities, such as stop and search and clamping down on saunas, above local needs.

Meanwhile, the survey named violence and disorder, domestic abuse and sex crimes, road safety, antisocial behaviour, drugs, serious organised crime, and housebreakings/theft as city-wide priorities for action.

Only Almond failed to place break-ins among its local crime concerns, with the city clearly marking it as central priority.

Figures last week showed housebreakings soared by 23 per cent over the last 11 months, with less than one in three break-ins solved. Police Scotland oversaw the dismantling of housebreaking investigation units, which were reformed in December after solvency rates plunged and officers were accused of ignoring a key crime for worried residents.

Chief Supt Williams said housebreaking was “absolutely” a priority over the coming year, returning to the fore alongside reducing violence or antisocial behaviour.

Every ward put combatting antisocial behaviour on its agenda while violent crime, such as serious assaults and robberies, was cited by ten of 17.

Father-of-two Alan Small, pictured right, believes extra patrols are needed to lessen his community’s fear of personal attack in Sighthill/Gorgie, where violent crime featured on the public’s hit list.

The 54-year-old, who lives in Wester Hailes, was brutally assaulted on a bus after trying to stop tearaway children throwing hot chips at passengers last July.

He said: “Myself and my wife never use the underpasses as they are known as places where you get attacked. If I’m walking back home, I generally go as fast as possible as you don’t feel safe.

“I’d like to see more police on patrol to make people feel safer. I think police should also improve CCTV coverage. When I was assaulted, the cameras at Westside Plaza weren’t working and they would’ve caught my attackers on film.”

Figures released last week showed violent crime dropped by 12 per cent under the single force.

Cameron Rose represents Southside/Newington, the only ward to cite vandalism and dangerous driving as major issues alongside break-ins and drunken behaviour.

He said: “Housebreaking has been a real problem in the last nine months. The long overdue reconstitution of the housebreaking units is welcome, but it really needs to be stamped down on. There are periodic outbreaks of vandalism and graffiti in Southside, the Meadows and Grange, with graffiti ‘tagging’ and car damage. I’d like to see police do more to catch those responsible to provide a deterrent.”

Cllr Rose added: “Antisocial behaviour mostly stems from those coming home from pubs and clubs and leaving a path of destruction in their wake. I would say, however, it’s not as bad as perhaps five years ago.

“The large number of cyclists in the ward makes them particularly sensitive to dangerous driving.”

Both the city centre and Leith, with their high numbers of pubs and clubs, identified alcohol and drugs as problems.

Leith councillor Gordon Munro said: “Drugs and alcohol continue to cause problems and violent crime is very much connected to that. They make reckless behaviour more likely. Just last week I was at the Kirkgate and someone was boasting of injecting legal highs, a new drug problem we have to deal with.

“But alcohol is still the biggest drug being abused in Leith. I’d like police to come down harder on pubs for public order offences. Police Scotland should also take more action against street drinking in places like the Kirkgate.

“Violence, antisocial behaviour, drugs and alcohol are all inter-linked and need to be policed together, but we need to tackle underlying social problems leading to substance abuse.”

Bogus workmen were highlighted as vital concerns in two wards – Meadows/Morningside and Pentland Hills – which both have larger populations of elderly residents.

Mark McInnes, councillor for Meadows/Morningside, said: “Older people are often in during the day when these crimes are committed so they are naturally concerned. The police have been good at alerting residents to bogus caller activity and I want that to continue.”

Cllr McInnes called for more patrols to combat the violent crime concerning his constituents. He said: “Assaults have likely been cited as an issue because of the Meadows.

“The police have had successful operations but, sadly and inevitably, we do see attacks from time to time. More visible policing is probably the main way to reduce that.

“I’m pleased housebreaking units are back as many break-ins are carried out by the same individuals. Take them off the streets and you can reduce it.”

In Almond, antisocial behaviour involving youths and cars joined theft as the ward’s three main problems.

Local councillor Lindsay Paterson said: “There’s been an issue with boy racers in South Queensferry. It’s cars speeding and being noisy. The police are aware of those involved so I hope they will closely monitor the situation and take action.

“Antisocial behaviour hasn’t been a particular problem I would say. I’m surprised dog fouling and parking around schools weren’t raised as they are quite dominant issues.”

The public consultation saw 2400 street surveys completed by police along with more than 2600 online versions and hundreds more in community meetings and within the business community. Similar surveys were carried out last year, and by the Lothian and Borders force, but not on this scale.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “It’s important police work hard in communities to establish what the priority areas are. One of the main concerns surrounding the creation of a single force was that some localism would be lost.

“That’s why it’s so important that these surveys inform policy. The only disappointment is this approach comes at a time when police front desks are closing and frontline officers are filling backroom roles.”

Chief Supt Williams said: “These views are our road map for going forward in Edinburgh and addressing the needs of the city.

“I don’t think any police division in Scotland has asked more people, or produced a plan more honest and responsive than here.”

‘OUR INTENTION IS VISIBLE AND PREVENTATIVE POLICING’

EDINBURGH Division sought to create an innovative police plan for 2014-17, featuring priorities that drew upon information from a local Strategic Assessment using crime analysis alongside a public consultation.

The plan has seen officers engage with over 6000 members of the public inquiring about issues that mattered most to them and what they wanted us to prioritise.

The intention for 2014-17 will be to maintain visible and preventative policing, focusing on reassurance through intervention and the swift detection of offenders. The plan is further supported by 17 “ward plans”, which address community needs at ward level.

Local Inspectors have been tasked to create action plans that will drive activity for officers to target issues specific to their area, all of which has contributed to a 12.5 per cent reduction in violence across the city compared to last year. Edinburgh remains a safe and vibrant city to live and work in and I am confident that the priorities outlined in the Edinburgh police plan provide a clear focus for policing, with sufficient flexibility to adapt to emerging issues, as illustrated by Operation RAC, our dedicated response to combat housebreaking. Together, these will help to deliver positive outcomes for everyone in Edinburgh.

• Chief Superintendent Mark Williams is Edinburgh’s police commander

Top targets

Public policing priorities by council ward:

Almond

• Theft

• Antisocial behaviour involving youths and youth crime

• Antisocial behaviour involving vehicles

Pentland Hills

• Housebreaking

• Antisocial behaviour

• Road safety

• Bogus workers

Drumbrae and Gyle

• Antisocial behaviour

• Housebreaking

• Road safety

Forth

• Antisocial behaviour

• Housebreaking and theft

• Violent crime and assault

Inverleith

• Antisocial behaviour

• Housebreaking and theft

• Violent crime and assault

• Road safety

Corstorphine and Murrayfield

• Antisocial behaviour

• Housebreaking

• Road safety

Sighthill and Gorgie

• Assault and violent crime

• Housebreaking

• Road safety

• Antisocial behaviour

Colinton and Fairmilehead

• Housebreaking

• Antisocial behaviour

• Road safety

• Violent crime and assault

Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart

• Housebreaking

• Antisocial behaviour

• Road safety

• Drugs

Meadows and Morningside

• Antisocial behaviour

• Housebreaking

• Violent crime and assault

• Bogus workers

City centre

• Violent crime and assault

• Housebreaking and theft

• Drunk or antisocial behaviour

• Drug abuse and drug dealing

Leith Walk

• Violent crime and assault

• Housebreaking and theft

• Drugs and alcohol

• Antisocial behaviour

Leith

• Violent crime and assault

• Housebreaking and theft

• Drugs and alcohol

• Antisocial behaviour

Craigentinny and Duddingston

• Antisocial behaviour

• Housebreaking and theft

• Drug dealing and drug use

• Road safety

Southside and Newington

• Dangerous driving

• Housebreaking

• Drunken antisocial behaviour

• Vandalism and graffiti

Liberton and Gilmerton

• Housebreaking and theft

• Antisocial behaviour

• Drugs

• Violence

Portobello and Craigmillar

• Antisocial behaviour

• Housebreaking and theft

• Drug dealing and drug abuse

• Violent crime and assault