‘Links between police & public getting better’

Beat officers engage with the young generation.
Beat officers engage with the young generation.

Sporadic attendance at engagement meetings, but, our senior police officer says there are a range of measures in place to ensure our communities are kept safe in 2015 ...

Police in Fife are aiming to enhance community policing to ensure the area continues to be a safe place to live and work.

Pro-active measures to tackle issues such as drugs and violence have resulted in reductions in some crimes.

And a review of local policing structures – carried out by Chief Superintendent Garry McEwan, Fife’s divisional commander – is designed to strengthen relationships between the police and public, and lead to further reductions in crime and the fear of crime.

The emphasis is very much on building a rapport between the police and local people, with a structure based on Fife Council’s 23 ward areas. Each ward will have two dedicated constables, while there will be 10 dedicated ward sergeants based across Fife, and eight dedicated community inspectors.

They will be backed up by community policing teams and community investigation units.

Chief Supt McEwan gave an overview of ‘Community Policing in Fife’ to councillors at a recent Fife Council meeting, drawing attention to the work already being done, as well as his plans for the future.

He said: “I’ve spent my entire career in Fife and I’m very proud of the community policing we have here, but we are always looking to improve.

“My sense is that the relationship between the public and police is getting better.”

The officer is confident the ward constables and sergeants will become well known on their beats as they become more involved in local life.

One way the public has been able to communicate with the police at a local level has been through community engagement meetings, although Chief Supt McEwan said consultation would take place at local levels to gauge the usefulness of such events.

He explained: “Community engagement meetings have had sporadic attendance, but when there is an issue in a local community and there is a feeling the police are not dealing with it, then the attendance is much bigger.

“When attendance at these meetings is quite small, we generally find people are reasonably happy with the relationship with the police.”

He also highlighted a range of pro-active measures – many already in place – as a key element of the community model, with officers door-stepping known drug dealers and offenders, carrying out bail checks and making reassurance visits to domestic crime victims.

“Community officers are going to the homes of known drug dealers and door-stepping them,” he said. “There has been an increase in drugs charges, and we know from our community involvement meetings that drugs cause the most harm in many of our communities. It is right, in my view, that we target this.”

Another area of focus has been on tackling crimes of violence, and efforts in this area appear to be paying off, with serious assaults down by 32.6 per cent over the last five years and minor assaults down by 10.5 per cent over the same period.

There also appears to be some correlation between a reduction in knife crime and the use of ‘stop and search’ tactics. Although there has been much controversy over ‘stop and search’, Chief Supt McEwan said considerable work had been done, particularly with the younger generation, to make sure they knew what was happening and why, and to encourage feedback from those who had been searched.

He acknowledged ‘stop and search’ had the potential to “disengage” young people, but officers had worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen, and had visited all 18 secondary schools in Fife to explain the process.

“Once young people understand why we do stop and search, which is to prevent crime and target those who are intent on committing crimes, and as long as it is done in a respectful way, we will not disengage young people,” he said.

“The reaction we’ve had from the majority of young people has been generally positive and they have told us they feel safer on the streets.”