THOUSANDS of crimes every year are still being reported at police stations in Edinburgh despite the trend to mobile or online contact with the force.
And that makes the case for keeping stations open overwhelming, according to Lothian Tory MSP Gordon Lindhurst.
Figures he obtained through a Freedom of Information request show almost 10,000 crimes have been reported at police stations in the Capital since 2015.
Four years ago the Evening News campaigned to save public counters at police stations across Edinburgh and the Lothians from closure in a swingeing programme of cuts and five were reprieved.
But subsequently we reported how several stations where the counter was retained were not open for anything like the hours that were advertised. The counter at Leith police station was fully open for just 29 days out of 261 during the first nine months of 2017.
And earlier this year Edinburgh divison stopped publicising opening times for police counters, except for the two 24/7 stations at Gayfield and St Leonard’s, telling members of the public to dial 101 to check if their local station is open before they go along.
Mr Lindhurst said despite the reduced availability, people were still choosing to go and report incidents in person rather than phoning or informing the police online. The statistics show that out of 175,920 crimes since 2015, at least 9455 or 5.37 per cent were reported at police stations.
Mr Lindhurst said: “We have seen a continued reduction in the opening times of police stations across the Capital.
“That will concern people who through no fault of their own might be a victim of crime, but turn up at their local station and find it is not open to the public to report crime.”
He added: “For some people, for whatever reason, they are not comfortable just phoning in to report something.
“And for some things, you have to do it in person – I found a wallet in the street with £500 in it some years back – you can’t deal with that over the phone.
“It’s a bit like online banking – great when it works, but it doesn’t work for everything or everyone. It’s not an issue that’s going to go away.”
Divisional commander, Chief Superintendent Gareth Blair said most people used 101 or 999 to report crimes.
He added: “The busiest two police stations in Edinburgh, Gayfield and St Leonard’s, are open 24/7 and we are committed to maintaining this service.
“Front counters at other police stations in the city are operated under a system of flexible opening hours that reflects staffing levels and demand, which can vary from week to week.
“Any member of the public who arrives at a police station and finds that the front counter is closed can use a designated yellow telephone so speak to our Service Centre. Depending on the urgency of the call, officers may be dispatched.”