​Community policing hasn’t failed, they just need resources - John McLellan

Drone footage of the riots in Niddrie. Picture: Press Association.Drone footage of the riots in Niddrie. Picture: Press Association.
Drone footage of the riots in Niddrie. Picture: Press Association.
​The location might change, but the stories about violence against police officers and fire crews on Bonfire Night 2024 can be written now.​

Outrage, fury, tougher sentences, blame the parents, something must be done, it’s all Thatcher’s fault. You can write your own report now.

Two things struck me about this week’s disturbances in Niddrie, first the deliberate aiming of rockets at the line of riot police shielding themselves against what looked like tracer fire.

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Be it UK or Scottish legislation, an outright ban on the sale of fireworks to anyone except a licenced display organiser is long overdue and would certainly get the thumbs-up from the owners of Britain’s 11 million dogs.

The second was the scene of the disturbance, Hay Avenue, which is at the heart of the regenerated district, with smart, modern homes on a liveable, low-rise scale. No dark, neglected council estate this, and in an affluent city like Edinburgh with jobs aplenty, there’s no justification for adults to be arming children with explosives and egging them on to attack the police.

As the TV documentary by ex-Edinburgh gang member Graeme Armstrong has revealed, the causes are likely to be rooted in territorialism, bravado and good old-fashioned street respect, and all bound up with the defence of lucrative criminal enterprises which encourages a them-and-us attitude towards law enforcement.

But when an idiot councillor posts “defund the police” messages on social media, should anyone be surprised if respect is in short supply?

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There is certainly a shortage of personnel, exacerbated by Edinburgh Council’s cut of funding for community officers to save money, and perhaps this week’s trouble was a symptom of the gradual reduction of the resources needed to police more difficult areas.

Flash-points still need to be handled and we are somewhat squeamish (well, Theresa May was) when it comes to dealing with street insurrection. Seeing as Scotland is supposedly in love with all things European, what a pity officers didn’t have a European-style water cannon to hand, like those on which continental police regularly rely when the going gets a bit rough.

They would at least have been able to douse the fireworks. And with a bit of blue dye in the tank, it might be more straightforward to track down the perpetrators.

Policing is indeed only properly effective by consent, but I doubt if the people on Hay Avenue trying their best to enjoy a renewed neighbourhood would not consent to gangs of youths getting a good soaking before the equivalent of an artillery shell comes through the living room window.

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If the police worried about the damage it might do to community relations, then the need to kit out officers with visored helmets and shields suggests that point was passed some time ago.

And when a former MSP, to whom I will not give the benefit of publicity, takes to social media to blame the police for provoking the trouble by deploying officers in riot gear, it’s clear some people have lost the plot completely. If they had it in the first place.

There is a clear distinction between more intensive community engagement all year round and readiness to take the gloves off when gangs determined to cause fear and alarm take to the streets in number.

Community policing hasn’t failed. They just need the resources to do it properly.

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