Chief Superintendent Gareth Blair: My pledge is to build on success

Chief Superintendent Gareth Blair is the new Divisional Commander for Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean
Chief Superintendent Gareth Blair is the new Divisional Commander for Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean
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It is with great pride that I write my first Capital Cops column, one week on from my appointment as Edinburgh’s Divisional Commander.

As a native of the Capital, and having worked across all stations in the city during my 28 years service, it is a great privilege to now lead the division that I have called home for most of my life.

I’d like to start off by thanking my predecessors, Kenny MacDonald and Richard Thomas, for the outstanding work they have both done while in command of Edinburgh. My intention is not to change the policing approaches and values that have been put in place prior to my arrival, but rather to build on them and make Edinburgh an even safer place to live, work and visit than it already is.

Key to that, in my opinion, is tackling public space violence, which is often linked to the over-consumption of alcohol. This is particularly important as we approach the Edinburgh Festival and pubs and clubs have extended opening hours. We continue to build problem profiles on areas affected by these sort of offences and already dedicate high-visibility patrols to locations where violence has occurred. Over the summer, the division will be supported by additional officers from the National Prevention Taskforce in undertaking these patrols and helping us deter violence. This is really positive, as it’s a national recognition that such crimes will not be tolerated.

Our communities continue to highlight the issue of motorcycle theft and associated antisocial behaviour and I want to reassure everyone that addressing these matters remains one of our top priorities. Through targeted enforcement activity carried out as part of Operation Soteria we have seen significant success in reducing these crime. Our year to date figures (April-June 2018) show a decrease of motorcycle thefts by 52 per cent, while antisocial behaviour linked to the theft of motorcycles has fallen by 70 per cent.

Our efforts to combat these offences have been greatly assisted by City of Edinburgh Council, who funded the purchase of two police off-road motorcycles, which help us provide a visible deterent on our streets and roads. A number of our officers are also equipped with DNA tagging spray, which assists in our ability to identify and arrest perpetrators of motorcyle crime.

Another area for encouragement is in relation to the theft of pedal cycles. In response to a rise in these incidents, we launched Operation Agora and this is already yielding great success.

Since 1 April there has been an 18.8 per cent reduction in the theft of bikes, which equates to more than 90 fewer crimes. Operation Agora activity recently resulted in an 18-year-old man being charged in connection with the theft of 32 bicycles in the south of the city.

For some time, housebreaking has been an ongoing concern for many residents. I want to make it clear that this most invasive of crimes will not be tolerated.

Edinburgh has its own dedicated Housebreaking Investigation Unit, which conducts inquiries into all domestic and commercial housebreakings and works closely with a range of partners to bring offenders to justice, while at the same time providing useful crime prevention advice. I am pleased to report that domestic housebreaking is down by more than 19 per cent between April and June, meaning 76 fewer victims.

We cannot and will not become complacent in our efforts to tackle wider acquisitive crime and we know that the answer to reducing these offences further is not by working in isolation, but through co-operation and collaboration with our relevant partners and the community.

Chief Superintendent Gareth Blair is Divisional Commander for Edinburgh.