Senior police chiefs to patrol streets

Picture: Kate Chandler

Picture: Kate Chandler

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SENIOR police chiefs will be taken away from their desks and sent on regular street patrols as part of the launch of the new single force today.

Chief Superintendent Mark 
Williams, Edinburgh’s new police commander, revealed the move alongside a widespread restructuring taking place under Police Scotland.

Hundreds of backroom officers, including senior staff, will be expected to spend at least one eight-hour shift per month on the beat to help spearhead the city’s Campaign Against Violence (CAV).

The normally desk-bound officers will team up with front-line colleagues to target 
alcohol-related violence, often carrying out city centre patrols on Friday and Saturday nights.

Chief Supt Williams, who will direct the city force from his base at St Leonards police station, said his aim was to “hit the ground running”.

The 43-year-old pledged that the number of officers in Edinburgh will remain unchanged under Police Scotland while efforts such as CAV days will try to bolster the street presence.

Chief Supt Williams said that a trial run of the CAV days had been held in recent weeks and proved to be a “huge success”.

He added: “Officers in back offices will get the chance to put on a yellow jacket to help get all our resources on to the street. It’s a really good way of putting out a highly visible 
presence.”

The trial day saw officers carry out 104 stop and searches, make nine arrests, conduct 80 bail checks on alleged domestic abusers, and visit nearly 500 off-sales and licensed premises.

And Chief Supt Williams today unveiled a number of newly created units tasked with tackling crime in the Capital.

They include:

• An Alcohol and Violence Reduction Unit, based at West End station.

• A Domestic Abuse Investigation Unit, based at the Amethyst sex crimes unit in the Gyle, but later moving to the city centre.

• A Divisional Rape Investigation Unit, also located at Amethyst 
headquarters.

• Three Community Investigation Units in stations at Corstorphine, Gayfield and Craigmillar to tackle offences such as housebreaking and car theft.

• A new city-wide road policing unit, based at Fettes.

• An expanded licensing section, based at Fettes, with increased visits to pubs and clubs.

Meanwhile, Operation Arable – a crackdown launched in February last year to combat a surge in assault and robberies in Edinburgh – will patrol hotspots.

The operation was cited as a major factor behind a 30 per cent drop in street muggings, and now becomes a permanent fixture of city policing.

Chief Supt Williams said that the creation of other new specialist units was aimed at targeting key offences with “renewed vigour”.

He said: “We will be particularly focused on alcohol-related violence, domestic abuse and sexual crimes, particularly rape. These are vital strands of policing because they have such an impact on the 
vulnerability of individuals. For domestic abuse, we will be better able to target perpetrators of these crimes and provide greater support to 
victims.

“Our message to perpetrators is that there will be no place to hide.

“There will be a real drive to make inroads in these chronic areas where the public deserves protection.”

The emphasis on tackling violence and disorder will also see an expansion of the licensing section, whose duties now include a much higher number of visits to licensed 
establishments.

Chief Supt Williams said: “Edinburgh has a vibrant night-time 
economy, but unfortunately alcohol-related violence can go hand in hand with that. The licensing section will look to be increasingly proactive, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. People can expect to see more visits by licensing officers to pubs and clubs.

“That will involve working closely with door stewards and licence holders, who will have to play their part in keeping patrons safe. Much work will be intelligence-led to identify places where problems are occurring.”

Under Police Scotland, road policing will be carried out at both a divisional level and through the National Trunk Roads Unit.

Chief Supt Williams, who took on the new role after serving as divisional commander for East Lothian and Midlothian, began his career in Edinburgh as a constable in 1993.

The local policing plan was drawn up by Chief Supt Williams and his team following a community consultation over recent months which saw feedback from 3000 residents via street surgeries and online surveys.

He said: “What I hope people will continue to see is a visible police presence. There will not be wide-scale change to the front-end of policing. There’s been no reduction in police numbers.

“The absolute intention is that we have a police service which is effective and locally based. The leadership challenge is to make sure that happens. My focus from today is getting these units up and running as soon as possible. We have to hit the ground 
running.”

Goodbye to UK’s oldest fire brigade

TODAY also sees the launch of the single Scottish Fire and Rescue Service with the merger of the country’s eight regional services.

The move brings an end to Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, the oldest municipal fire brigade in the UK.

It was founded in 1824 under the leadership of James Braidwood following a series of disastrous blazes in Edinburgh. Braidwood went on to establish the London Fire Brigade.

The new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has its HQ in Perth, and there are three operational hubs in the north, west and east.

Alasdair Hay, chief officer of the new service, said the public should not notice any difference in firefighting provision. Emergency 999 calls will still be put through to a Lothians call centre, and firefighters will be deployed in the same way through 35 local stations throughout the five council areas.

Alan Paterson, of the Scottish Fire Union (SFU), said: “Fire engines will go out as normal. The same local firefighters are in place. The public should be oblivious to the changes.”

Ministers expect to save £25 million a year from the fire service once the reform process is complete.

Better resources to solve serious crimes

EDINBURGH’S former city commander, Malcolm Graham, is one of the six assistant chief constables at Police Scotland.

ACC Graham, the former chief of CID for Lothian and Borders Police, is head of major crime and public protection for the single force.

Today he revealed the new set-up for the investigation of serious crimes in Edinburgh and the Lothians while maintaining that “the foundation of a national force will be policing at a local level”.

ACC Graham said: “The Major Investigation Teams responsible for murder enquiries will be nationally coordinated but deployed locally. They will have a greater availability of specialists and experts.

“There will be Major Investigation Teams based in Leith and Livingston, with officers based locally. They will not be coming from a big pot in central Scotland.

“We will also have 14 rape investigation units across the country, with one based in Edinburgh and another in Dalkeith.

“We understand that budgets will be tighter. Therefore, we want to make use of the more limited resources to focus on the most serious crimes like murder and rape.”

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Q How will Police Scotland operate?

A It will have 14 local divisions, each led by a chief superintendent. Chief Supt Mark Williams and Chief Supt Jeanette McDiarmid will head up the Edinburgh and Lothians, and Scottish Borders divisions respectively. Former chief constable of Strathclyde Police Stephen House is in charge of the single service which also has four deputy chief constables and six assistant chief constables.

Q Will the public notice a day-to-day difference?

A Chief Supt Williams said: “Front-line policing in the community will still have the same focus and the same roles. There’s not a been a change of staff and residents will see the same faces on patrol.”

Q How many officers will work in Edinburgh?

AEdinburgh had 1250 officers before the launch. Chief Supt Williams said that the numbers under the new set-up will remain “unchanged”.

Q How do you contact police?

A A single 101 non-emergency number has been brought in across Scotland to help take pressure off the 999 system. The communications centre in the Lothians remains at Bilston Glen, Midlothian.

Q Where will Police Scotland headquarters be?

A Command headquarters is at Randolphfield in Stirling.