Police chief vows to get tough on Edinburgh thugs as violent crime soars

VIOLENT crime is on the rise across the Capital, newly published Police Scotland figures reveal.

Monday, 20th May 2019, 09:12 am

Attempted murders, serious assaults and knife attacks were all up in 2018-19 against the previous year, though numbers remain comparatively low.

Edinburgh’s top cop vowed to get tough with the thugs and flood the city with officers over weekends in a major crackdown.

“There’s room for improvement of serious violence,” said Chief Superintendent Gareth Blair. “Serious assaults were up and we’ve launched a significant operation around that.”

Chief Superintendent Gareth Blair said that targeting people and places was key to knife crime. Picture: Alistair Linford

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Attempted murders were up more than half (55.6 per cent), from 18 to 28 and serious assaults up 14.2 per cent from 365 to 417 between April 1, 2018 and March 31 this year.

But Mr Blair said ramped up efforts by officers has led to a drop of more than a third (37.5 per cent) in the first six weeks of the new financial year.

More officers are patrolling the city centre on weekend nights and patrols are spreading further from the centre of town, including to Gorgie Road, Leith Walk and the Southside.

Bars and nightclubs are being urged to use plastic glasses, while bouncers are being given tips on how to diffuse trouble before it flares into violence.

“We’ve increased Operation Night Guard on Friday and Saturday nights – more officers and a wider area,” said Mr Blair.

Knife attacks were up more than a quarter (28 per cent) from 116 to 149, while those found carrying knives were up a third from 196 to 261.

“There’s absolutely not a knife issue in Edinburgh,” said Mr Blair. “It’s 149 out of 53,500 crimes. Do I want 149 crimes involving a knife, no, so we will work on that with more stop and searches so they realise they won’t get away with it – targeting the right places and the right people.”

Attacks on emergency workers, including police officers, were up 11.5 per cent, from 538 to 600.

“It’s not that we’re getting more assaults, it’s that we’re not tolerating it anymore,” said Mr Blair.

“Before, if an officer was making an arrest and was assaulted but there was no injury, they probably wouldn’t have recorded it as a crime.

“But for me, I want officers to record when they’re assaulted – quite rightly we shouldn’t tolerate it anymore.”

Threats and extortions were also up 42 per cent, from 45 to 64 cases, driven by cyber crime.

Typical cases involve victims being duped into sending explicit photos over the internet before being blackmailed for cash.

But robberies were down seven per cent from 286 to 266, with Mr Blair praising officers’ work to combat so-called “taxing” – where criminals attack each other for drugs and money.

The Evening News has reported on a number of such raids in recent weeks, with thugs typically targeting each other in their own homes.

“It’s by locking them up,” Mr Blair added. “If it’s criminal on criminal then it’s about enforcement.”

Overall, violent crime was up six per cent from 828 attacks to 878.

Patrick Green of anti-knife crime charity the Ben Kinsella Trust said Scotland is still the envy of forces south of the Border in terms of how the issue is combatted.

The brother of former EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella, Ben was just 16 when he was murdered as he celebrated finishing the last of his GCSEs in London in 2008.

His death triggered a series of protests and led to stricter sentences for those convicted of knife crime.

“The numbers are low however any increase in knife crime attacks and knife carrying is worrying,” said Mr Green.

“It just goes to show that every effort must continue to be made to tackle this problem.”

Mr Green said it was imperative outreach work continues top enable young people to make the right decisions.

He added: “It’s essential the work in education to encouraging people away from crime continues because what we know from our work in England and Wales is that knife crime behaves like a virus and grows very quickly, very fast.”

andy.shipley@jpimedia.co.uk