Helen Martin: Don’t let the police turn their backs on us

If the police are given the option not to turn up to investigate a low-level crime, the odds are they wont. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
If the police are given the option not to turn up to investigate a low-level crime, the odds are they wont. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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WHO wants to live in a lawless society? Well it’s time to brace ourselves because that’s the direction Scotland is heading in as focus shifts from expensive outgoings such as investigation and prison terms and towards cheaper options that require less manpower.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (which is supposed to be the public “watchdog”) has suggested “low-level” crime such as theft or vandalism should increasingly be dealt with over the telephone – by call-handlers. These, of course, are the sort of crimes which affect the majority of people and can make their lives a misery.

It even went on to say that where the victim was vulnerable or a suspect has been named, “the police may choose to attend”. Celebrities may choose to attend the opening of a village fair if their diaries allow. The Queen may choose to attend a grand function.

There are many victims up and down the country who have already discovered that they could have wound up covered with more cobwebs than Miss Haversham if they had patiently waited for an officer who never showed.

But if police are increasingly given the choice of whether or not to bother turning up, the odds are they won’t. And what is that but a green light to thieves, vandals and whoever else Police Scotland – rather than the public – deems a “low-level” criminal?

One reason behind this suggestion is the huge rise in cyber crime taking up more and more police time. Unfortunately even the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents admits cyber criminals are way ahead of the police. And you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that’s never going to change. The combined forces of governments, the IT industry, international web and social networking legislation, and a new, global, cyber crime unit all working together could potentially have some small impact on cyber crime, but that’s a completely different field from the traditional policing we need on the ground.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Scottish justice system is now handing out Community Payback Orders (once known as Community Service) for sexual crimes including rape against children and adults, violent offences, carrying weapons and breaking into homes. Apart from murder, that covers just about everything. Picking up litter, a spot of decorating, even attending a cookery course count as CPOs and sometimes the offender is provided with free childcare or a taxi in order to carry it out – although a quarter of them don’t complete these “sentences” anyway.

How do victims feel about that? How much of a deterrent against crime is the maximum community payback of 300 hours over a period of up to three years? That’s less than two hours a week! And how is that supposed to rehabilitate someone found guilty of rape or assault?

If the current disastrous interpretation of Scottish policing and justice wasn’t so dangerous, immoral and shocking in its failure to protect the public, it could be described as a joke.

Does it really come down to budgets? There are endless pressures on the economy, but what’s the point of affordable housing, cheap renewable energy and equal educational opportunities if our streets and homes aren’t safe? If that means we need more police officers and more prisons, they should have priority.

No place like home for our Chinese visitors

WHEN most of us go abroad on holiday, we want to experience local life, customs, food and learn the ways of our host country. The last thing I’d want is to cross the world only to breakfast on porridge and dine on a haggis supper.

So I find Scottish Development International’s approach to the growing number of Chinese tourists coming to the Capital patronising and pandering.

They are telling hoteliers to provide Pot Noodles in rooms (what self-respecting Chinese gourmet would want a Pot Noodle?) and telling restaurateurs that it’s a Chinese custom to be at least half an hour late for a reservation so they shouldn’t give the table away.

Instead, why not produce a guide book in Mandarin explaining how things work here, how our customs differ, that they should not attempt to cook their own noodles in a hotel room kettle (it’s disgusting), and they must be on time for dinner?

When in Rome – or Edinburgh – do as the locals do. That’s the whole point of travel.

It’s arrogance that separates man from beast

EVERY week another research story emerges testifying to the intelligence of animals.

Apes can be taught sign language and have a sense of humour; dogs can tell when a human is being insincere; pigeons have the capacity to remember how to spell 43 words; and now horses can communicate their needs using symbol cards.

No-one who has regular contact with either tame or wild animals will be surprised at any of these findings relating to emotional or intelligent behaviour. The depths of animal abilities – many of which we don’t share – are endless.

There’s only one egotistical, dullard, blinkered animal, capable of great evil, deluded by a sense of superiority and blinded by its own limitations . . . and that’s a human.

What a bunch of twits

JUST as the law here is upping the penalties for using a mobile phone while driving, Toyota, Honda and Fiat have launched cars with built-in access to Twitter and Facebook on the dashboard. Tweeting is about to become a matter of life or death.