Police hail success of local focus as crime falls

POLICE chiefs have hailed a near-ten per cent drop in crime in the first half of 2012 as evidence that a new focus on local communities is working.

Chief constable David Strang of Lothian and Borders Police said crime in the force area had fallen by nine per cent in the first five months of the year.

He told the News the decrease was due to the success of Community Commitment, a policing initiative introduced two years ago, which has seen officers engage directly with residents and businesses, and respond to concerns raised.

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Police have since launched a range of community-focused operations to tackle crime and disorder, including Operation Cipher, which saw drugs worth tens of thousands of pounds seized at addresses across Wester Hailes, and a campaign targeting dog owners after new-born lambs were attacked in Midlothian.

Mr Strang called the force’s community pledge “an absolutely fundamental” part of its activities and said it would remain in place even though Lothian and Borders Police are about to undergo structural change as part of government plans to set up a single force for Scotland.

Mr Strang said: “Crime across the force area continues to fall following the introduction of this initiative two years ago.

“In the first five months of this year, we’ve seen a nine per cent annual reduction in crime as a result of the policing that we are doing. The community commitment itself is the embodiment of our community policing. It’s about listening to communities and responding to their concerns.

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“What’s significant is that we are putting what the community wants us to do at the heart of what we do. If the public have confidence in us, then they will contact us with information that is important to solving crimes.”

Mr Strang confirmed the community commitment would be unaffected by the move to a single police force.

He said: “I think there will be an even greater focus on meeting the needs of local communities after the single force is introduced.

“Successful policing is about working with the community and responding, and that will continue no matter what the force structures are.”

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He added: “We are planning for the next phase but the focus will remain on tackling organised crime and antisocial behaviour.”

The community policing initiative has been praised by local officers.

Edinburgh Pentlands chief inspector Richard Thomas said: “Community Commitment resulted in greater visibility and engagement between police and locals within Edinburgh Pentlands.

“As such we have been able to establish the specific needs of this community and gather vital intelligence on the criminals operating within.

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“Our enforcement activity saw large quantities of heroin seized along with dealer amounts of cannabis before this could be distributed to the public and a number of individuals are now awaiting trial for alleged drug offences.

“Engagement is at the core of Community Commitment and is essential in ensuring the continued success of Operation Cipher.”

He added: “The local community also highlighted the damaging effect antisocial behaviour was having on the area and activities have either taken place or will begin shortly to address this issue.”