The officers and staff of Police Scotland’s Edinburgh Division are working hard to provide a service to their communities, says a report published today (Tuesday, October 20).
Local police are also actively engaged with the city’s licensed trade to tackle antisocial behaviour associated with the night time economy, which helped reduce violent crime in Scotland’s capital city during 2014/15. However the report found that overall crime rates in Edinburgh Division are amongst the highest in Scotland while detections are the lowest.
The need for sufficient officers in response and community roles is a consistent theme to many of the challenges affecting Edinburgh Division of Police Scotland and the report calls for a review of the balance between local policing and specialist resources across the city.
The HMICS Inspection of Edinburgh Division, which contains eight recommendations, is the latest in the rolling programme under which all 14 local policing divisions of Police Scotland will be inspected to assess their state, effectiveness and efficiency.
This inspection highlights the additional demands placed on the division in policing Scotland’s capital city and the regular need for local officers to cover other areas such as custody, front counters and Edinburgh Airport. It also looks at the abstraction of officers to maintain public order at courts and recommends that discussion take place between Police Scotland and the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service to reduce this.
It is estimated the equivalent of 55 officers every day are being drawn from local policing teams to provide temporary cover for a range of additional demands, including policing the 1150 pre-planned events the city typically hosts each year. This impacts on the availability of these officers to respond to public demand.
The report also comments on the changing demands of policing with a significant proportion of police time now spent responding to vulnerable people, whose needs could potentially be better met by other agencies. In planning how best to use its resources in Edinburgh, HMICS believes Police Scotland should take into account and balance the competing demands from both public and protective policing, and the significant pre-planned demand arising from the numerous events in the city.
HM Inspector of Constabulary, Derek Penman said: “We have taken the view that many of the issues affecting Edinburgh Division have arisen because of the specific challenges that come with being the capital city. The single force has provided greater access to specialist support and has provided additional officers to assist in meeting these challenges.
However I believe there is now a need for Police Scotland to review the balance between local policing and specialist resources to ensure there are sufficient officers within response and community policing roles across the division.
“The positive trends across Scotland of reducing crime levels and improved detection rates are not mirrored in Edinburgh. However these challenges around performance existed before the creation of Police Scotland; and the reasons for them are complex and examined in our report.”
The inspection notes that Police Scotland is fully aware of the challenges facing Edinburgh Division and a range of activities and initiatives have been put in place to improve performance. Housebreaking is one such area where Police Scotland supported the division in a co-ordinated response after increases of over 20% in 2014/15. This has seen the number of these crimes within the division beginning to reduce.
HMICS found that the division has a good approach to consultation, using a variety of methods to identify national and local priorities. This ensures policing priorities meet the needs of its communities. Local scrutiny arrangements and the “Think Twice” initiative in the city centre are also highlighted as examples of effective practice. During the inspection, HMICS looked in detail at the division’s approach to partnership working, assessing the impact of change both locally and nationally on this critical area of policing. Edinburgh Division and its partners have the shared aims of community safety and wellbeing.
While some partners commented that police have focused on enforcement rather than partnership in recent years, this trend is now reversing and partners are optimistic the division is refocusing its attention on local relationships. During its inspections of each local policing division, HMICS also inspects custody facilities to assess the treatment of and conditions for those detained. Of the four custody centres in Edinburgh, the one at St Leonard’s Police Station is the primary facility. The unannounced inspection of St Leonard’s custody centre found detainees are well treated and benefitted from the 24 hour health care on site and good cell conditions.
However the physical layout of the premises and the volume of detainees processed there, have led HMICS to recommend Police Scotland consider long term options for meeting custody demand in the Edinburgh area. Other recommendations relate to ensuring person escort records are completed properly, maintaining supplies of items required by detainees, the use of suitable vehicles for transferring custodies to other facilities and regular checks on the state of readiness of the three other overflow custody centres at Craigmillar, Wester Hailes and Drylaw.
The force will be asked to incorporate the HMICS’ recommendations into its own improvement process and ensure good practice is shared across Scotland to promote continuous improvement.