A MAJOR shake-up of policing in the Capital was launched today, with scores of officers switched to community teams and a new appointments system introduced for non-urgent matters.
Changes in shift patterns will also mean more officers on duty on weekday evenings and late at night on Fridays and Saturdays.
Edinburgh police commander Chief Superintendent Mark Williams said the moves were an investment in local policing for the Capital and would create a more efficient service.
A total of 160 officers are being transferred from “response” roles, typically patrolling in cars, to community policing teams on local beats.
Chief Supt Williams said communities across the city would see an immediate benefit. “It means extra officers out where the public want to see them – on foot patrol in local streets responding to their concerns and available to speak to them.”
Response teams currently account for about 75 per cent of front-line officers, but in future the balance will be 54 per cent in response roles and 46 per cent in community policing teams.
He said: “We are moving the emphasis back onto local areas. It will mean more visible local policing and more officers in community teams.
“For example, if you have your house broken into, a community officer is going to attend to a call like that. In the past, it’s more likely to have been a response officer.
“We believe this will help them get a grip on the problems that are getting called into us. The officers who work day in day out in the area are the ones who will have a better chance of getting to know the public, getting to know the criminals and doing something about it.”
The new appointments system will see members of the public who want to report minor crimes being offered a visit from an officer at a time which suits them between 8am and 9pm any day.
Chief Supt Williams said such appointments might be to report vandalism, thefts or minor road accidents where drivers had exchanged details and gone home.
He said it had always been a frustration for people not to know when the police might call. “By changing our working arrangements we can now ensure that the public will know exactly when we will visit them,” he said.
But he stressed: “We will attend immediately if there is any likelihood of catching a perpetrator. This is for instances where there is no urgency, but there is a need for a police officer to see the person.”
Probationer officers – those in their first two years of service – will be placed in community policing teams and “buddied up” with senior officers so they can learn the importance of building contacts with the public.
Chief Supt Williams said: “The changes made to officers’ shift patterns also mean there will be more officers visible in the streets and available to deal with incidents at the busiest times between 2pm and midnight throughout the week and we will also be able to provide additional officers to work in the city centre during the weekends.”
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack welcomed the emphasis on local policing. She said: “I have always been keen to see local police building up relationships at community level so they are not seen as remote. And given the reorganisation of the police service, that is even more important now.”
On the appointments system, she said it was important, even for minor crimes, that people got a “reasonably quick” response and were able to give statements to police without undue delay.
What the changes will mean to communities and officers
THE shake-up will mean:
• Home appointments to report minor crimes.
• 160 officers moved into local community policing teams to be deployed on foot or on pedal cycle across the city.
• Changes to shift patterns of 725 officers so that both community and emergency response teams can respond more effectively to calls and incidents 24-7.
• Probationer constables joining community policing teams to gain vital experience of working in local communities.
• Extra officers working at night in the city centre at weekends to prevent disorder and deal with alcohol-related incidents.