Patrols bid to stop the rot

EVERY Friday and Saturday night around 20 police ­officers gather in the streets of Govanhill for an outdoor briefing.

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  • Police say they are determined to crack down on crime in Govanhill
    Police say they are determined to crack down on crime in Govanhill
  • Police say they are determined to crack down on crime in Govanhill
  • Police say they are determined to crack down on crime in Govanhill
  • Police say they are determined to crack down on crime in Govanhill

With traffic police, mounted officers and officers on bicycles, police chiefs aim for a high-visual impact.

Locals claim the area is being left to rot - but the police in charge are determined to show they are cracking down on crime.

And high-visibility policing - part of the Govanhill EPIC - is the main weapon in their attack.

EPIC stands for Enforcement, Prevention, Intelligence and Communication, the four things police claim are necessary to cut crime.

Sergeant Willie Eadie is the officer in charge when the Evening Times joins a Friday night shift.

He said: "Police Scotland is committed to keeping people safe and increasing levels of confidence in the police - and that's what this is about.

"We brief officers outdoors so that the local community can see us and know that we're there and available to them.

"It lets people hear what our priorities are and they are more than welcome to approach and ask questions.

"Perception of crime and fear of crime are often greater than what is actually happening in the area."

Mr Eadie starts the shift with a briefing that highlights how officers should be putting the community first.

And for a briefing ­designed to make locals feel safer in Govanhill, the sergeant pulls no punches.

He tells the gathered ­police officers how the area has some of the highest crime levels in the country, including violence, anti-­social behaviour and child neglect.

But these are the reasons Police Scotland has agreed to pour resources into the community - and they are not sugar-coating the situation.

As officers pair off to ­begin their patrols, the Evening Times is partnered with PC Chris Keir and PC Robin McCabe.

After the briefing, on the corner of Allison Street at Annette Street, it is Mr Keir and Mr McCabe's task to patrol the streets in the small community.

PC Keir said: "One of our main roles is to engage with the community and make them feel comfortable enough to approach us and tell us any concerns they might have in the area.

"We will go into local shops and find out about any problems the shop­keepers need to have addressed."

The two officers quickly spot a familiar face - a man who they suspect may be carrying drugs.

They stop and search him but let the man go after questioning and giving him advice.

As well as keeping an out for well known faces, the ­police officers also check closes that are trouble spots.

Despite multi-million pound investment by Govanhill Housing Association and Glasgow City Council to upgrade close security, some tenants have found ways to disable heavy, magnetic entrance doors.

The result is closes being used for anti-social behaviour, drug-taking and fly-tipping.

PCs Keir and McCabe know exactly which closes are hot spots for trouble.

And the closes clearly show why residents have concerns.

Most have bags of rubbish piled near back doors, a strong smell of urine and all are covered in graffiti.

PC Keir said: "Millions of pounds was spent on these doors but, unfortunately, some residents find it more convenient to have the doors open at all times and so have found a way to disable the locking mechanism.

"It means the closes are vulnerable to anti-social ­behaviour and illicit drug-taking, which obviously causes great concern and distress to residents."

In one close, the officers notice an unsecured cellar door and decide to investigate.

Inside, hidden in a pile of detritus, is a kitchen knife. The officers remove it and call for a police van to ­collect it.

PC Keir added: "We can't say for sure why the knife was there, but you can't ­imagine it was for any positive purpose."

Throughout the night, the two officers also visit local shops, where they know the owners by name.

One of the main causes of unrest in Govanhill is the growth of the Roma population.

But the community police claim it is rare that Roma youths cause trouble.

PC Keir said: "To be honest, it's rarely the Roma or Asian youths that we find we have to deal with.

"It is usually the ­indiginous, white youths who are causing problems.

"If we see groups of Roma youths outside, they are normally ­behaving lawfully - but we will have a chat with them and suggest they move into the park or socialise elsewhere."

At the beginning of the night, Mr Eadie says the success of the operation can be measured in arrest figures.

The next morning the results are in - four arrests for breach of the peace and three anti-social behaviour notices have been handed out.

It has been a relatively quiet night but officers say the numbers show that perception of crime is worse than crime itself.

Chief Inspector ­Hazel Knight is responsible for running the policing strand of the EPIC - and brought the scheme to Govanhill.

Ms Knight said: "We have run EPICs in other parts of the city but only for a month at a time; this is the first year-long initiative.

"We are working towards building public confidence in Govanhill and and reducing the disproportionate fear of crime.

"The best way to do this is to have visible, accessible officers in the area engaging the public and dealing with any criminality.

"For me, the briefings are important to allow local people the chance to meet local ­officers, hear the tasking and contribute to what they want the ­police to do.

"It allows engagement with the community who don't call us or attend our offices but would like to ask a question or meet local officers.

"We have an enhanced plan here that we hope will help build confidence and make people feel safe."

catriona.stewart@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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