Community commitment in the Scottish Borders - two years on
Graham Ford • Published 6 Sep 2012 09:35
A community policing campaign, which celebrates its second anniversary this month, continues to meet the needs of the public in the Scottish Borders.
In September 2010 Lothian and Borders Police launched its Community Commitment pledge across the Force area.
The key principle of the initiative is to engage closely with local communities to identify the issues or concerns that impact upon their areas and respond accordingly.
Through their sustained dialogue with residents and businesses officers continue to carry out a number of initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for everyone within the county.
Shortly after the Community Commitment launch two years ago, local officers for the Church Square area of Galashiels were made aware of ongoing concerns relating to an increase in crime and antisocial behaviour and a decline in the upkeep of the area.
To address these issues, a multi-agency task team was put together featuring officers from Safer Communities, Community Beat Officers, Antisocial Behaviour Team along with representatives from Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) and local Community Wardens.
In February 2011 the group undertook a day of action to engage with all residents and build a profile on the nature and extent of the problems being experienced within the area.
High-visibility patrols were carried out to deter crime and offer reassurance while Community Wardens and officers searched for evidence of littering, vandalism and graffiti and dealt with those found to be responsible.
Advice and guidance was provided to all local residents on the various channels for reporting crime or making a complaint, while officers gathered intelligence on those believed to be responsible for the issues affecting Church Square.
Known offenders in the area were met with and offered various intervention routes to stem any further incidents occurring in the area.
To increase the level of community pride, a multi-agency project group was formed to carry out various local initiatives aimed at improving the look of Church Square and getting the community involved in caring for their neighbourhood.
Among these initiatives was the removal of an old flowerbed, which had been previously used as a dumping ground for general waste.
This was replaced by a new waste disposal site containing appropriate receptacles for general waste as well as a designated area for recycling.
Prior to its installation, only three bags per fortnight were uplifted from Church Square for recycling. However, this has continued to rise since 2011 and into 2012, with over 80 bags being collected in August this year.
The area saw a 26% reduction in antisocial behaviour over the first six months of 2011 and a further 37% reduction in the first six months of 2012.
Since the project began, recorded crime has dropped by over 47% and rent arrears have decreased by almost 30%. Of particular importance has been the formation of a local residents association who have worked closely with the group and who will be critical to ensuring sustainability of the improvements to date.
The multi-agency group continue to meet and will look to address any further issues that arise in the Church Square area.
Chief Inspector Kenny Simpson said: "Church Square is a focal point within Galashiels and is at the heart of one of the main ceremonial acts of the Braw Lads Gathering, where the Braw Lass mixes the roses at the Mercat Cross.
"However, despite this, we found that the area had gone into decline and local residents were fed up with the levels of crime, antisocial behaviour and degradation affecting Church Square.
"With the vital assistance of our various partners, particularly Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Borders Housing Association, we carried out action days and projects to address these issues and bring out the sense of civic pride within all members of the community.
"We are delighted with the results and will continue to engage with the residents of Church Square to identify areas requiring police or local authority attention and address these matters appropriately."
Chief Constable David Strang added: "Through our community commitment we have made significant progress in tackling the issues that matter to the people and businesses we police.
"I am pleased to see that we continue to build on the strong links we have with local communities and we will continue to deliver on their priorities to ensure neighbourhoods can flourish.
"Local policing is at the heart of everything we do, and I am confident this will remain to be case as we move to become a single service."
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