SENDING in police to tackle classroom “crime” may seem like an over-reaction.
But a project which has seen officers based in schools and helping to tackle everything from skiving to bullying has been judged such a success it is to be rolled out across the city.
Eleven police officers will now be deployed to cover all 23 Edinburgh secondary schools.
The scheme, first piloted in April 2007, sees officers mediating meetings with kids to address bullying, patrolling the community after school to discourage antisocial behaviour and helping vulnerable families.
It is said to have helped drive down exclusions and foster positive relationships with pupils and local residents.
Inspector Alun Williams, who has helped co-ordinate the initiative, revealed that a potentially serious fight was averted following tip-offs received through school police support.
He said: “We are dealing with things that officers do not traditionally do, like truancy and assisting with after-school clubs – the softer side of policing.
“But there have been a number of examples of interventions where, by being on site, we have stopped things developing into something further.
“There had been a dispute between two groups of people that had evolved online and was shaping up to be a traditional square-go.
“Two people were teeing up for a fight that would allegedly involve weapons. We received intelligence from young people telling us this was happening and when, so we paid a home visit to the pair on the morning the fight was being planned.”
The pilot project was launched in Boroughmuir and Tynecastle high schools, and extended to include Firrhill, Portobello, Liberton and Broughton high schools.
Police officers will now be positioned in Drummond, St Thomas, Wester Hailes Education Centre, James Gillespie’s, Gracemount and Leith Academy with remaining schools drafted in by April.
Peigi MacArthur, headteacher at Portobello High School, said it had helped to improve relationships between young people and the police.
“It’s good in terms of developing a positive role model for young people,” she said. “Our Pc has sung in fundraising cabarets and the school talent show. I always say jokingly ‘you never knew you needed a police officer until you have one’.”
City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: “This is a great project. As a result of the pilot the officer is no longer viewed as threatening and harassing, but as someone who is on their side.”