Only 148 officers on beat to police all of Scotland – Sunday Herald

John Bynorth,Home Affairs Editor
Sunday Herald,13 April 2008

Scotland had only 148 police officers on the beat at any one time until recently, despite its biggest city suffering from the highest murder rates in Europe per head of the population, new research reveals.

Reform Scotland, a new political and social affairs think-tank, found violent crime per head in Glasgow is 16% higher than in New York City 10 years ago, and countries of similar population levels such as Ireland having lower crime rates despite deploying fewer officers.

The World Health Organisation recently found Glasgow has the highest murder rates in Europe per head of population and the national Violence Reduction Unit produced evidence as part of its 10-year strategy that 1000 patients attend Glasgow Dental Hospital each year suffering from facial injuries caused by knives and other weapons.

Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill plans to put an extra 1000 officers on the beat over the next four years.

The Edinburgh-based group, which is officially launched tomorrow, has urged the Scottish government to spend more on public order and hand community police chiefs greater responsibility for funding after it calculated that only 1.89% of the spending was on public order and safety under the previous administration.

It also wants the police to adopt the radical "zero tolerance" approach to crime, as pioneered by former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, by tackling prostitution, graffiti and begging as key priorities.

Director Geoff Mawdsley, a former Tory Party adviser, based his report\’s policing figures on a 2002 study by Her Majesty\’s Inspectorate of Constabulary which found that only 22.6% of officers are available for patrol, or can attend incidents at any one time.

Mawdsley estimates that, with only 4% of police allocated to foot patrol, there were, until recently, a mere 148 police officers on the beat at any one time.

"There should be an emphasis on having more police on the streets,  and not in patrol cars, protecting the public from crime."

"Scotland\’s crime rate is higher than it should be given the police numbers, whereas other countries with similar populations, such as Ireland have a lower crime rate and fewer police officers."

"Where more democratic accountability has been introduced, it seems to have improved the performance of the police right down the local level of policing. There is a flow of accountability right up to the mayor in New York and it seems to lead to better performance in reducing crime."

Mawdsley, who will hand police chiefs his findings, said the recent Enhanced Policing Plan (EPP) in the Baillieston, Shettleston and Greater Easterhouse area of Glasgow, which netted more than 600 criminals, was a good example.

Led by Superintendent Michelle Martin, the area sub-divisional officer, EPP tackled crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour through high-visibility patrols which saw 1250 searches for drugs, 2800 for offensive weapons, 1700 searches for alcohol and 2100 visits to licensed premises to stop alcohol being sold to youngsters under 18s.

Strathclyde Police refused to comment last night. Read the Sunday Herald article here.