Opinion: Cutting Crime in Scotland’s Festival City

Close partnership working and information sharing between agencies at a local level has contributed strongly to reductions in crime and anti social behaviour in Lib Dem led Edinburgh.

Scotland Capital, with its strong night time economy and festivals, has enjoyed reduced crime and antisocial behaviour in recent years. New shift patterns, leading to more officers being deployed where they are needed and when they are needed, have contributed to the reduction in crime. Co-located police officers, joint patrols with environmental wardens and information sharing between statutory agencies have also helped. Much of the improvement is also down to an innovative model of decentralisation for management of many of our quality of life services leading to better value for money and vastly superior outcomes for residents.

The council agreed to bring to together a number of services under one “Services of Communities” Department and as part of this move then decentralised a number of these to a neighbourhood level. These include street cleaning, grounds/open space maintenance and parks, housing management and community safety.

The City was split into 6 Neighbourhoods whose building blocks were the new multi-member wards. The neighbourhoods are very different in their makeup and needs. The city centre has a highly successful night time economy with the fourth largest number of businesses of any ward in the UK. Some neighbourhoods are very wealthy suburbs while others include the estates made famous in Trainspotting.

To help with planning of services locally Neighbourhood Partnerships were set up. These involve local councillors, Community Councils, Fire, Police, NHS and Voluntary sector.

Performance has shown a marked improvement especially in respect of dealing with crime and antisocial behaviour. Police, Council and Fire officers meet on a monthly basis to share information about crime and anti-social behaviour and to plan patrols.

This partnership approach has seen significant reductions in crime and antisocial behaviour – 23% for crimes of vandalism and fire-raising. In relation to dealing with anti-social behaviour public satisfaction is up – there has been 22% increase in satisfaction across the City and for the city centre, where the night life tends to be situated, there is a 47% increase. Personally I also feel that informal discussions between co-located police officers and council staff have a big impact as well.

While staff costs of a decentralised services are slightly higher than that of a centralised model, the performance improvement under the Neighbourhood Management model has generated financial efficiencies of almost £4m per annum.

A recent report into Neighbourhood Management identified that during the first 3 years of neighbourhood management, a total net saving of over £15m (a recurring saving of £5m) has been delivered and, in addition to these quantifiable savings, “evidenced dramatic qualitative improvements in operation performance and customer satisfaction.”

Locally set priorities, co-location and shared information have certainly paid off for Edinburgh. I am passionate about our Neighbourhoods and I am sure we can build on the close partnerships we are still developing.

Paul Edie is a Lib Dem Councillor and is Convenor of Health Social Care and Housing on Edinburgh City Council and Chairs the Edinburgh Community Safety Partnership

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Scotland.
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