Anti-social behaviour means many are living in fear - Sue Webber
Bonfire Night aside, there is a real risk of escalation in the Currie area because a handful of out-of-control teenagers indulge in sustained anti-social behaviour which the police seem powerless to quash. It’s not just theft and vandalism, but intimidation of locals, including racist abuse, and concerns about bullying at Currie High School.
One community council member told me he feared a repeat of trouble in the late 1990s which culminated with the murder of 19-year-old Mark Ayton.
I wrote to Edinburgh commander Chief Superintendent Sean Scott, and in fairness received an almost immediate reply from the area chief inspector who outlined plans for high visibility patrols in Currie and Balerno. He also promised to find longer-term solutions in partnership with the council and other agencies but warned budget restraints required everyone to “work creatively and innovatively to create solution-based opportunities.”
It’s not yet clear what this might involve, so I’ve helped organise a meeting next month at which police, community councillors, the school community and crucially, victims, can share ideas.
But without direct police intervention, I know that high on the agenda will be the extreme disturbances now blighting the Hermiston area, where the problem is not feral youths but adults ─ so-called boy racers ─ gathering at the park-and-ride in customised cars, using it as a skid pan and a base for racing on surrounding roads, with all the obvious danger that entails.
As if the noise from souped-up engines, loud music and fireworks isn’t enough, they are creating an intimidating atmosphere for bus passengers, so I was approached separately by several worried locals who also reported open drug-taking. When police eventually responded to complaints last weekend, just one patrol car arrived to quell the disturbance created by what had grown to a crowd in the hundreds.
The next gathering in early December, just before our meeting, is even being advertised on Facebook and the “Edinburgh Mega Meet” already shows over 300 people are interested. It will take a lot more than one patrol car to deal with that.
But if police resources are concentrated on such a big unofficial event with a clear link to criminality, that means the rest of the community won’t get the promised high-profile patrols. And it doesn’t just apply to Currie, but has a knock-on effect across the city and beyond.
Part of the answer at Hermiston might be to limit the park-and-ride opening hours, as is the case at Ingliston, but that might just move the problem to Straiton. There is no escaping the fact that all the “solution-based opportunities” in the world don’t get past the basic need for more officers on the streets to ensure determined troublemakers, wherever they are, have nowhere to hide and people can live their lives in peace.
All front-line services are as desperate for resources as people are for help, while the SNP wastes time defending a minister who tried to claim £11,000 of your money for a week’s holiday entertainment on his iPad. Anti-social behaviour comes in many guises.
Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP