A SPATE of 'hooliganism' in Peebles has led to serious doubts over police presence in the town from the Community Action Teams.

The local authority-funded force costs the public £550,000 each year.

Although the patrols were launched by Scottish Borders Council and Police Scotland to tackle anti-social behaviour and drug-related crimes, retired senior police officer Les Turnbull heavily criticised their effectiveness on his hometown.

The Chairman of Peebles Community Council, Les Turnbull was reacting to reports of five weekends of anti-social problems.

Addressing a meeting of the Community Council, he said a councillor had called police after witnessing a girl screaming and being dragged by her hair along a residential street, only to be told “there was no-one that could attend”.

Speaking in the Burgh Chambers about the level of anti-social behaviour over the last month, Mr Turnbull added: “I don’t know where our Community Action Team is because I haven’t seen any action from them.

"To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. I don’t think we are getting very good service from the police service.”

But Councillor Robin Tatler, a member of the steering group which monitors community action teams, says Peebles is an area of focus for the police.

He said: “These weekends that there has been trouble there have been a couple of arrests of young people who were causing problems.

"They are continuing to keep it on their action programme for the next month.

"They are tackling anti-social driving in Dean Park, basically boy racers.

"When I was at the meeting I asked them to include Haylodge Park as well as the other areas of the town. So they are there.”

At this point Area Commander for the Scottish Borders, Chief Inspector Stuart Reid along with Sergeant David Rourke, and PC Diane Sorrell entered the Chambers and were swiftly put in the hot seat.

Mr Turnbull continued to highlight what he called hooliganism on the High Street, which was posted on social media by a member of the public.

He said: "What concerns me and what concerns the community is this seems to be developing into a weekend affair now, and we’re not seeing an awful lot of police activity.

"The question I was asking is where is our Community Action Team that we are paying all this money for?”

Chief Inspector Reid told the community council he wanted to come to the meeting to provide some reassurance to concerned locals but added, 'we don’t have a small army'.

He added: "The reality of 21st century policing is that limited numbers of police officers are operating across the extensive geography of the Scottish Borders.

“As you know we’ve got 1,800sq miles to cover and we cannot be everywhere all the time in dealing with specific incidents.

"If there is the perception that we’re not here dealing with crime then we need to do something about that.

“But we are doing something, we are here in Peebles, and we are responding to the calls we can get to.”

Sergeant David Rourke, who runs the recently launched second Community Action Team, said that over the course of the month in Peebles there had been 41 hours of police patrols.

During the month, officers carried out searches and recovered drugs, visited licensed premises, issued parking tickets, seized alcohol from youths, and issued recorded police warnings for anti-social behaviour. Following warrants, police also recovered just under £3,500 worth of drugs.

Two police officers are also expected to join Sergeant Rourke’s team at the end of the month and will be stationed in Peebles.

However, Mr Turnbull is not convinced by the work of Community Action Teams.

He said: “I want to be reassured but unfortunately I am not.

"The reason for that is because I have had different people saying to me that they’re frightened to walk through Haylodge Park in the evenings, and that is a dreadful state of affairs.”

Inspector Reid replied: “I think we play one part in that, as do education and parents.

"We police the consequence of bad behaviour.

"What manifests that bad behaviour and where does that come from? I was in a meeting today about schools and I was very shocked to hear what was going on in schools, and the level of disrespect pupils shown to teachers.

“Whilst I am more than happy to address criminality by children, I think parents and education have a duty.”

Mr Turnbull hit out at community action teams policing events such as cycling.

He stated: “I’ve got this quarterly report here from Tweeddale Area Partnership. One of the things that surprises me is the Community Action Team were present at cycling events, as well as additional patrols at campsites and reassurance visits to competitors.

“I thought the Community Action Team was being paid to provide a reaction to ongoing problems in the town, and not being used for what is routine work.

"This should either be done by Police Scotland or, if these are events being held by a business that is making profit out of it, they should be paying for the extra police like rugby and football matches have to do. In my view, this is a misuse of the Community Action Team when there are other pressing ongoing problems.”

Inspector Reid assured the chairman that the police were not there as an event team, they were there to prevent thefts and detect offenders following a spate of robberies.

Mr Turnbull said he would like to discuss the possibility of recruiting Special Constables, who would provide the reassurance the community is anxious to see.