Gina Davidson: Cops are losing our confidence

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A FEW weeks ago I was speaking to a woman who lives in Longstone who had been the victim of a housebreaking – not once, but twice in the last few years.

Unsurprisingly she got quite upset recounting what had happened, the idea of a stranger ransacking your home; the violation of your private space is hard to reconcile.

But there was a part of her story which left me dumbfounded. The first time her home was robbed, her car was also stolen. The next day a young man, “a poor soul” is how she described him, knocked on her door and returned with her car keys – the car itself had been dumped just a few streets away.

He was apologetic – blamed the whole break-in on his partner in crime – and so she bravely invited him in and called the police. It took them hours to arrive. Hours in which she fed him, gave him cigarettes, and talked endlessly about trivial matters so that he’d stay and, she hoped, be arrested so she could get her belongings returned.

When the police finally came they took him away, and that was it. She never heard another thing. There was no arrest, no statements, no trial. Not even a phone call to let her know what was happening. And, of course, she didn’t get any of her stolen goods back, just a crime number to give to her insurers.

Her story is unusual of course – not many “on the rob” return. But housebreaking is reaching epidemic levels in Edinburgh – and where cars are also stolen, the numbers of cases have doubled in the last few months.

Police Scotland says such crime is down to a small gang of hardcore criminals who are obviously flourishing. Flourishing perhaps because, as Scotland’s top cop Sir Stephen House says, housebreaking is too “time-consuming” for police resources.

But housebreaking is not the only crime that is on the up. Gun crime is never out of the papers. Just this week there was a shooting in Gilmerton Dykes Avenue and since September homes in the Inch, Pilton and Gilmerton have been shot at while armed robberies on bookies and jewellers seem to be regular events.

There are supposed to be record numbers of police on our streets, yet questions have to be raised about what they are doing and where they are being deployed. Is it the case that, with the numbers of civilian staff being drastically reduced – as part of the “one nation one force” cuts – Police Scotland has too many uniformed officers who are doing back room duties?

Anecdotally I have heard that, in West Lothian for instance, there are only four officers out on duty at night – in pairs of course, so that means just two cars to comb a massive geographical area. In Edinburgh those numbers must be higher, but they don’t seem any more visible.

Police officers go where they’re told, do what they’re told. The creation of Police Scotland has left many of them disillusioned and unhappy with what they’re being told – stop and search, sauna raids – and it’s leaving the public worried that their calls for help will be low priority or worse, given no consideration at all.

Even in a case where the perpetrator is handed to them, as in the lady from Longstone, nothing much is apparently done by Police Scotland. Or maybe the “poor soul” gave them so much information on other criminals he was let off.

Either way, like most victims of crime, the woman he robbed would have been pleased with a call to know the outcome – and to feel the police were on her side. It’s a feeling we’d all like to share in again. Confidence is key between the public and cops.

Victim’s job is not important

THE jailing of Faizan Ali for raping a sex worker at knife-point sends an extremely important message. The 24-year-old received a five-year sentence for his horrific attack on the woman which took place in Leith Links last November.

Too often there’s an attitude that women who work in the sex industry have to be prepared for such attacks – that it comes with the territory. But rape is rape no matter the victim’s job.

Faizan Ali’s conviction shows that it is a crime which will be taken seriously by police and the courts.

Mhairi’s lesson for Dugdale

AFTER all the hype, I watched the UK’s youngest MP make her maiden speech in the Commons prepared to be disappointed.

However Mhairi Black – the 20-year-old who defeated Douglas Alexander in Paisley – gave an assured, humorous and pointed speech, proving perhaps, just why she won. It’s worth a watch – particularly by another young woman, Kezia Dugdale, who is aiming to be Scottish Labour’s leader.

It was a shame the Labour benches were so sparsely populated as Black spoke, for her message to George Osborne was one which you’d expect to come from there. It was the opposite of Harriet Harman’s defeatist attitude towards Conservative welfare cuts.

With opinion polls showing another SNP landslide at next year’s Holyrood election, Dugdale needs to speak the language of Black rather than Harman if she’s any hope of Labour at least gaining people’s second preference votes.

Forget the weather and get out...

IT ALL sounds very Roald Dahl, but how refreshing that a Howdenhall nursery is getting kids outside rather than letting the typical Scottish weather keep them permanently indoors. The idea of a “forest nursery” where they can roam around and do their learning al fresco will likely turn out particularly “sparky” children. And the rules of “don’t climb a tree higher than a teacher”, “don’t touch anything jaggy” and “don’t touch dog poo” sound like lessons for life.