Police remove debris in Bonfire Night crackdown in north Edinburgh

They were scenes which injected such fear into members of the public last year that they felt it was not safe to leave their homes.

Wednesday, 31st October 2018, 7:07 am
Updated Wednesday, 31st October 2018, 7:08 am
Police have been assisting council workers in removing material from public parks. Picture: TSPL

The streets of Edinburgh were chaos during last year’s Bonfire Night celebrations which saw a police officer being seriously burnt, firefighters attacked and cars torched.

Police in the north of the city faced crime and disorder in areas such as Muirhouse, Pennywell Road and West Pilton during disgraceful scenes which ultimately put lives in danger.

Sergeant Richard Homewood told the Evening News preparations into this weekend began on November 6, 2017 and feels his team based at Drylaw Police Station has done everything possible to prepare for the weekend’s festivities.

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Untaxed vehicles have also been seized. Picture: TSPL

Officers have been proactive in minimising and removing the gear prospective yobs may use for criminal activity, including untaxed vehicles and heaps of debris likely to become a bonfire.

He said: “We’re keeping an open mind as to what we’re going to face this year in the run up to Bonfire Night. Officers are all conscious of the areas where we experienced disorder last year and will be patrolling there like the rest of the north west.

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“In terms of our planning, we want to reduce and remove as many of the tools they may use to cause disorder before the day itself.

“Last year was a very challenging night in terms of a police response. But what drives me now is the thought that the real reckless disregard some individuals have shown, not only for the safety of my colleagues, but for members of the public by choosing to fire fireworks at people or into buildings which is totally unacceptable.

“Over and above that, when they elect to shoot fireworks then ultimately they are attacking the fabric of the state. An attack on police is an attack on society in general.

“We have done everything possible to prepare thoroughly as we’re able to do for this weekend. We have worked with many public sector and third sector partners to create as safe an environment as possible in the lead up to the day. For the night we’re well equipped in terms of police resources and specialists to assist if the minority decide to engage in disorder.”

The operation has seen individuals who have been responsible for disorder during Bonfire Night last year and in recent weeks hand delivered letters reminding them of the consequences their actions could have.

Officers have also been attending schools to warn pupils of the dangers surrounding fireworks and private, unauthorised bonfires. The community policing team assisted the DVLA which seized at least nine untaxed vehicles in the northern part of the city on Tuesday.

Removing these vehicles from the roads ahead of Bonfire Night is “crucial” according to Sgt Homewood, who says they can put lives in danger when under the control of the wrong people.

He added: “The DVLA has powers to uplift untaxed vehicles, something the police does not possess. There are occasions when some people do not take too kindly and it is useful to have a police presence in order for the DVLA to carry out their work.

“From our perspective it allows us to remove untaxed vehicles, some of which may go on to be used in relation to crime or disorder.

“It is crucial to get these vehicles off the streets. If they are being sold without a chain of ownership it means they are at risk of being used without consequence. Someone wanting to commit crime who has access to these vehicles can put lives in danger.”

Police have also been working with the city council to identify potential bonfires which pose a risk to the public. The council has increased its number of units on the streets to carry out community patrols and responding to reports of illegal bonfires. This is being assisted by officers as part of the Operation Orbit team who have been engaging with the public on off-road motorbikes.

Yesterday saw six units dispatched by the council to remove debris piled up by the community at Pilton Park. Microwaves, beds, carpets, table football and trees were among the dumped items which were taken away to be recycled or for landfill.

“There is no guarantee the items are suitable and we have come across ones in the past with items such as gas canisters and deodorant cans which can potentially explode if exposed to flames,” said Sgt Homewood.

“If bonfires contain something it shouldn’t then it needs to be removed for public safety. The access we have out of hours and across the weekend to waste removal services has been vastly increased which has helped us in the run up to the weekend.”

More officers will be on the beat across Edinburgh with specialist support including officers in protective gear including helmets and fire retardant uniforms on standby if required.

But Sgt Homewood is hoping that action will not be necessary and that it will be a weekend of safe celebrations. He added: “We want people to go out and enjoy themselves on Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night but we want to make sure they are doing it safely.

“I have a young family and my expectation this weekend is that I should be able to take my family out with me to have a good weekend.

“I think everyone who lives here should expect the same, that’s all we’re looking for. We want to provide an environment so they can do that.”