Newington meeting on housbreaking

Police organised a meeting last night at Mayfield Salisbury Church in response to the concerns in the ward about crime.  Housebreaking in particular is at epidemic level.

Very significant concerns and fears were expressed by local residents - in some cases forcefully.
  • One resident described two instances where his house was broken into and then, three weeks later his wife was faced with two masked men in the middle of the night.
  • When Inspector Nisbet responded to one question that the clear up rate for housebreakings was 34% the questioner followed up asking how many of those were taken to court and what was the conviction rate.  Those figures are not held by the police.
  • Concern was expressed about repeat offenders - especially juveniles who cannot be restrained - as there is evidence of criminals coming back to the same houses.
  • The one contribution which drew spontaneous applause was from one resident who attacked the justice system and the inadequacy of the police response
  • The theft of carkeys in housebreakings in order for culprits to steal the occupier's car is a feature of many of the housebreakings.  One resident criticised the police policy for pursuits of stolen vehicles which leads to police backing off - particular if juveniles are considered to be involved.  There was criticism of this soft policy which was considered to allow culprits to escape.
  • One member of the audience asked how we could get the justice minister here to the meeting.
  • There were questions about the bail system which enables criminals to repeat offend.
Of the residents I spoke to, one told me her neighbour on one side had been broken into.  Then the neighbouring house on the other house had been entered.  She said, "We're just waiting our turn."!!

Another told me he believed there were problems with a couple of sheriffs who were over lenient and who apparently did not appreciate the seriousness of the damage being done to the community.  That resident thought the Crown Office should at least have had someone present at the meeting.

All these comments and questions reflected a feeling of vulnerability and frustration that residents were not being protected.  All in all there was considerable frustration and fear - and some anger - with the present situation.

On a more positive note the police gave a reasonably good account of themselves at the meeting - especially PC Stevie McGill who was particularly informative, pragmatic and realistic in the advice given in response to all sorts of questions.

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