Police Scotland have been urged to investigate re-opening local police stations across the Capital to the public after officers in Balerno were able to use a mothballed station to crack down on anti-social behaviour during the summer.
Councillors in the south west of the city have asked police to consider re-opening police stations after officers stationed at Balerno, which closed in 2015, were able to respond quickly to unruly youngsters causing trouble.
It is thought that “a group of under-age drinkers” arrived in the community by bus and caused trouble including vandalism, threatening behaviour and intimidation and at least one serious case of assault.
Councillors believe having officers stationed locally was able to tackle the problems.
Conservative Cllr Susan Webber said: “While the station is still there, it’s not regularly manned and the police presence in the wider community has diminished along with an increase in the response time from officers.
“A tactic taken by the police was to temporarily base officers at Balerno police station. It worked well – it increased visibility as a deterrent and reduced the response time.” She added: “The initial decision to close Balerno was based on the number of people using the counter services to report incidents. The reason for closing a police station should lie beyond how many times people call into the station. A police station is also a statement that police are present and prepared to respond.
“We are looking to identify if there’s any possibility of this manning of the station being repeated or indeed a more permanent solution being made available.”
Police said the decision to use the station was not solely responsible for the operation being a success.
Chief Inspector Alan Carson, said: “The reality is we are policing a different world – a significant amount of our business is indoors. One of the main reasons we don’t see as many police on the streets is because the whole crime profile has changed in terms of policing virtual space and indoor space.”
Balerno only accounts for around three per cent of policing in the south-west quarter of the city. Councillors raised questions about whether other areas were more in need to additional support.
Green Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “People across the whole south-west area welcome the reassurance that there are community-focused police with a real visible presence in their neighbourhoods.
“How that’s done can vary – from attending community meetings, to holding community surgeries, or something as simple as swift response times. In the past I’ve been critical of the decision to close the public counter at another nearby station, at Oxgangs, and if that can be looked again, good, but not at the cost of losing other more visible forms of community interaction.”
Cllr Donald Wilson said that councillors directing how police spend money was “a dangerous thing to do”.
He added: “I have some difficulty with us telling the police what is the best use of their resources in order to fight crime. The responsibility for addressing crime lies with the police.”