Covid Scotland: 'Nuisance' calls to police in East Lothian spike over links to antisocial behaviour

A huge rise in antisocial behaviour reports has been blamed on a decision by Police Scotland to class all Covid-related calls as “nuisance” calls.

Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 4:04 pm

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The number of reported incidents rose 40 per cent year on year to 9,317, compared to 6, 648 during the previous 12 months.

However a meeting of East Lothian Council’s policy and performance committee was told that the steep rise was, in part, down to police policy.

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Calls to Police Scotland soared during lockdown

Paolo Vestri, the council’s service manager, said: “Antisocial behaviour has shown a steep increase. We know there has been an increase in the reporting of antisocial behaviour incidents, particularly over the summer.

“It is interesting to note that one of the reasons why the indicator has gone up so much is that all the Covid-related calls received by police were logged as antisocial behaviour/nuisance calls.”

Elected members however told the committee that there was evidence of an increase in antisocial behaviour in their communities.

Councillor Lachlan Bruce, whose ward includes Prestonpans where extra police patrols were introduced in April , called for more detailed information on incidents which are being reported.

And Councillor Tom Trotter called for a report breaking down the type of incidents and where they were happening.

He said: “I think every councillor in every ward has had calls about antisocial behaviour. There seems to be quite a lot.”

Mr Trotter also asked council officers to produce a report on outcomes of people reporting incidents to show action was being taken.

He added: “One of the things that keeps coming back and I am probably preaching to the converted here, is that once a case is raised it takes some time. But it is important to see that there is a result at the end of it.”

Mr Vestri agreed to circulate a more detailed report on antisocial behaviour incidents to elected members and look into bringing a further report to a future meeting. The figures for antisocial behaviour incidents were included in a report on the council’s performance during the first quarter of the year.”

Chief Inspector Neil Mitchell, local area commander for East Lothian, said: “The figures recording anti-social behaviour in East Lothian show the influence of the pandemic on local policing during the unprecedented times we have all been through.

“As Covid-19 related incidents were recorded alongside regular anti-social behaviour incidents we saw a significant increase in incidents last year. It is difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from these figures as they do not provide a like for like comparison with previous years.

“So far this year East Lothian anti-social behaviour figures are down 23.6 per cent compared to last year and are 2.9 per cent down on the five year average, which provides a more useful measure due to the unprecedented circumstances of the same period in 2020.

“That said, we are acutely aware of the disruptive effect that anti-social behaviour has in our communities across East Lothian. Local officers work closely with partners, including East Lothian Council, to address these issues and find meaningful solutions to direct our young people away from this mindless activity.

“Dedicated patrols are carried out in areas highlighted to us, with officers providing reassurance to the community as well as engaging with young people and discouraging antisocial behaviour.”

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