Poverty and inequality are key to fighting crime - Supt Richard Thomas
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted many inequalities that impact on all of us, not least because poverty is one of the root causes of crime and antisocial behaviour, and the mental health implications of long months of isolation and lockdown have hit some of the most vulnerable people in our society the hardest.
Throughout the pandemic, we have had to devise new and creative methods to ensure we remain engaged with our diverse communities, conveying police reassurance messages, offering prevention advice, and raising awareness of how crimes and incidents can be reported.
But crime prevention has come a long way from its origins: offering home and business security advice. Nowadays, we work with a broad range of private, voluntary and public sector organisations, diverting young and vulnerable people away from crime and drug misuse, providing safe spaces for victims of hate crime and domestic abuse, and - in the field of suicide prevention - working closely with charitable organisations specialising in mental health. We have also helped support some innovative projects in the city, such as the Beat Hunger campaign in North East Edinburgh, which seeks to tackle the issue of food poverty.
As the current Chair of the Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP) Delivery Group, I am responsible for leading a range of partner agencies in progressing Edinburgh’s 10-year Community Plan. The plan has three priorities for Edinburgh: Enough Money to Live On; Access to Work, Learning and Training; and A Good Place to Live. The LOIP group is currently engaged on a review of Advice Services in the city, aimed at income maximisation; creating training and employment opportunities for young people and under-represented communities; and promoting a public health approach to place making, which will ensure that our future city consists of neighbourhoods that are thriving, sustainable and safe.
You might wonder what all these things have to do with policing, to which the answer is of course everything. Police Scotland’s stated purpose is “to improve the safety and wellbeing of people, places and communities in Scotland.” Policing goes far beyond the traditional role of bringing offenders to justice, which naturally remains our core function and top priority. But we are also fully engaged in the business of understanding and tackling the underlying causes of crime, disorder and antisocial behaviour that threaten community wellbeing. These issues invariably arise from poverty and inequality, and it is only through addressing these complex issues, in collaboration with our partners, that we can seriously hope to reduce and prevent crime in the longer term.
As we recover from the pandemic, the work we carry out with our key partner agencies in the public, private and third sectors, is even more vital to ensuring that nobody is left behind, and that the wellbeing of people, place and communities in Edinburgh is protected and enhanced to provide a better future for all of us.
Superintendent Richard Thomas is responsidble for Partnerships, Interventions and Preventions