Campaign Against Violence Day launched in Edinburgh

Officers make their presence felt in the St Leonards area
Officers make their presence felt in the St Leonards area
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‘HE’S in bed and I’m not waking him up unless you’ve got a warrant.” The woman, still clad in her dressing gown at nearly 1pm, screamed again at the officers on her doorstep.

Outside the four-storey block of flats in west Edinburgh, neighbours gathered across the road to watch the increasingly noisy spectacle.

Her temper rising, the woman, in her 40s, refused to give way at the ground-floor home where police had arrived to arrest her husband – a suspected Hibs “casual”.

“If you want to come in, I want to see a warrant now,” she demanded repeatedly, still blocking the doorway.

The officers, deploying their best diplomacy skills, tried patiently to calm her down and explain that her husband would need to surrender.

After ten minutes of negotiation, the wanted man emerged meekly through the main door, a grey hooded top covering his face.

The Evening News had been invited to cover the arrests of suspected football hooligans as part of the police’s first Campaign Against Violence (CAV) Day in the Capital.

As the arrested man was led to a nearby police van in handcuffs, his wife ran from the flat screaming at our photographer standing near the vehicle.

Red-faced and shaking in her grey dressing gown, a trio of officers held her back as she shouted threats and swore.

After ignoring repeated warnings, the officers arrested her for breach of the peace, putting on a pair of handcuffs as she reared forward and emitted ear-piercing cries of outrage.

As she was led away, another woman in pink pyjamas aimed volleys of abuse from the open front window.

Across the road beside another unmarked vehicle, Chief Inspector Mark Patterson was co-ordinating the series of swoops on alleged hooligans.

Putting top brass “back on the street” is one of the central planks of the new Police Scotland philosophy. And it’s clear the tough tactic – coupled with a hard line on unacceptable crime like football violence – is already shaking things up.

Ch Insp Patterson said: “There was a lot of violence connected to the Hearts versus Hibs game on January 3. Fighting took place in Dalry Road around 45 minutes before kick-off and appeared to be organised. We believe the suspects knew each other. They did not become involved randomly.

“At least these are individuals who won’t be attending the semi-final tomorrow.”

The arrests were made on the eve of Hibs’ Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk at Hampden.

We joined the 16 officers making the arrests as they were briefed at Wester Hailes police station at 10am yesterday. They were given intelligence dossiers on each suspect, including a photograph.

The teams of uniformed officers then moved out in marked and unmarked cars at 10.30am. They were joined on the hard-hitting operation by colleagues from the National Alcohol and Violence Reduction Unit, based in Glasgow.

Addresses in Clermiston and Firrhill were targeted, as well as homes in East Lothian and Midlothian.

Across the city, 63 extra officers were on shift as part of CAV. Of those, 17 were normally involved in office roles. They included two superintendents, four chief inspectors, three inspectors and a number of sergeants and Pcs.

Ch Insp Patterson, who is area commander for south Edinburgh, said: “This is the first CAV Day run under Police Scotland. We have four deployments across the city, one of which is focusing on football-related violence.

“CAV Days are about working to prevent people from committing violent offences and rounding up known violent offenders on outstanding warrants. If they are wanted for not paying a TV licence then we are going to arrest them for that. It’s about targeting violent people and taking them off the streets.

“Today is a great opportunity to be back doing what I first became a police officer for. It gives me the chance to see what our officers are dealing with on a day-to-day basis as well as helping to provide a more visible presence for the public.”

It wasn’t just alleged hooliganism that was being kicked into touch.

Six additional officers were deployed in Drylaw yesterday to target violent offenders following a spate of street robberies, with warrants to be executed against suspects.

Eight extra officers were on hand in the city centre to tackle drug dealing, antisocial behaviour and street robberies.

And in the St Leonards area, a dozen officers were tasked with focusing on aggressive begging, street drinking, antisocial behaviour and conducting stop and searches for weapons. Arrests were made for offences such as knife crime and breach of the peace, while 44 licensed premises were visited and seven fixed penalty fines issued.

Superintendent Matt Richards was another senior officer out on foot patrol under CAV, walking the beat in the city centre and around St Leonards.

He said: “I’ve been on patrol in the city centre doing stop and searches, visiting licensed premises. I was in St Patrick’s Square when someone noticed the braids in my hat and commented that you don’t see a lot of superintendents on patrol.

“Public engagement is part of what these CAV Days are about. I can speak to people about policing issues and that feedback informs what we do.”

Officers launch crackdown

Were all alleged Hibs “casuals” wanted in connection with fights in Dalry Road before the January 3 match with Hearts.

The game itself was marred by ugly scenes inside the ground, including fans allegedly spitting into the face of a young ballboy and a flare being hurled which nearly struck a nine-year-old Hibs fan.

The crackdown was part of the city’s first Campaign Against Violence (CAV) Day which saw more than 60 extra officers, including senior police chiefs, hitting the streets. Officers visited addresses in Clermiston, Firrhill, Midlothian and East Lothian in an attempt to detain the suspects.

Four men had been arrested by yesterday evening, two aged 38, a 43-year-old and a 26-year-old, while officers continued attempts to trace the others.

Chief Inspector Mark Patterson, who led the operation, said: “The alleged offences related to general violence, disorder and assaults. We had good CCTV and witnesses from the scene and, combined with old-fashioned police work, we’ve been able to identify those allegedly involved.”

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the level of disorder witnessed at Tynecastle at the January match demonstrated a clear link between all-day drinking and widespread thuggery inside football grounds.

Mr MacAskill called for football chiefs to launch a review into late kick-off times which created the conditions for prolonged drinking and fuelled disorder.

Older hooligans ‘revisiting their past’

FOOTBALL-related violence is on the increase, spurred on by older hooligans “revisiting” their past, according to police.

With two 38-year-olds and a 43-year-old among those arrested yesterday, the problem is clearly not restricted to the young.

Hooligans who were involved in trouble decades ago are joining up with younger, more impressionable thugs to indulge in violence and disorder, officers said.

Chief Inspector Mark Patterson, who led yesterday’s operation, said: “There is a theory that people who were involved in football-related violence when they were younger are now revisiting that part of their youth. It went out of ‘fashion’, as it were, then came back again.

“Football-related violence has increased in recent years, and it’s not just an issue in Edinburgh. It’s a trend that we are aware of from across the country although it’s nowhere as bad as it was in the 1980s where there were very particular problems.

“Part of the work we’re doing is to prevent it from ever getting near that level again.”