CRANHILL is safer and less violent than it has been for years, says a top Glasgow police officer.

Chief Inspector David Pettigrew, area commander for East Centre and Calton, believes the unsolved murder of local grand­mother Jean Campbell has given the area an "undeserved reputation".

He said there had been a dramatic drop in the number of serious assaults, robberies and disorders taking place in the East End neighbour­hood, which has been known as one of the city's most troubled areas.

But despite three recent murders, Chief Inspector Pettigrew believes old wounds are starting to heal.

He said: "These murders understandably create an image of a crime problem in Cranhill, but that is not the case.

"It is about managing the perceptions of the public. And the reality is, it is not all negative."

In November, the body of Edward Bennett, 49, was found in his Cranhill flat. Two people, a 40-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman, were arrested.

A month later, Tracey Meikle, 33, was found guilty of murdering mother-of-two Lorraine Foy, 36, at flats in Crowlin Crescent in June last year. She was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years.

That same month Mrs Campbell, 53, was found dead in Cranhill Park by her husband, John.

She had taken her dog for a walk on December 13 and was never seen alive again. Her killer remains at large.

Chief Inspector Pettigrew added: "I understand the murder of Mrs Campbell has had an impact on the community, but flooding the streets with officers only fuels the fear of crime and the visible police presence in the area has returned to normal.

"We do not have to flood the streets of Cranhill with police officers because this is a safe place to live.

"The area has been given an undeserved reputation as a result of the murder."

One of the most baffling cases of recent times, Mrs Campbell's murder continues to cast a shadow across Cranhill.

But serious assaults in the area have dropped 25% in the last year, while robberies are down by a third in the same period.

The chief inspector said: "The real problematic crimes are down.

"Even before the tragic murder of Mrs Campbell, the area was receiving additional high-visibility police patrols, including 10 community officers specifically dedicated to Cranhill."

Figures also show disorder is down almost 25% and assaults have dropped more than 10% in the last year.

Vandalism, however, has increased 30%. But Chief Inspector Pettigrew has promised to tackle this increasing problem.

He said: "Cranhill has recently experienced some problems with low-level youth disorder, particularly in the vicinity of Cranhill Park and the Beacon Centre.

"A Community Safety Glasgow CCTV camera has been positioned opposite the Beacon Centre and street lighting that had been damaged by vandals has also been repaired.

"Vegetation has been cut back to expose areas previously used as drinking dens.

"And Community Safety Glasgow has provided additional support through community safety, patrols on foot and in mobile CCTV vehicles."

Local councillor Frank Docherty said people had been left devastated by Mrs Campbell's murder, but insisted the area was a safe place to live.

He said: "Cranhill is like its own village in Glasgow. People take care of each other and there is a great community spirit.

"They are devastated and just can't believe this has happened here.

"There is crime and then there is the fear of crime. I hope these encouraging figures will dispel any fear."