One school a day hit by crimewave

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POLICE are being called to a break-in or vandal attack at schools in the city on a daily basis.

The size of the problem has been revealed as officers appealed for residents to help tackle the crime spree at the launch of a School Watch campaign.

A total of 115 break-ins and 268 vandal attacks have been reported so far this year. There have also been 16 fireraising incidents and 337 thefts.

Now crime prevention officers are to visit schools across the Capital to carry out security assessments as part of the drive.

They will assess the need for any new lighting, CCTV cameras or design changes to buildings and playgrounds. The scheme is similar to existing Neighbourhood Watch programmes and will call on the community to keep an eye out for trouble at schools, nurseries, colleges and universities.

Police chiefs today warned minor vandalism to schools was often a precursor to fires being started. Currie Primary School yesterday became the first member of the School Watch scheme, but police chiefs hope to sign up every school in the city.

Sergeant Graeme Nisbet, from the force's safer communities department, said: "We will be leafleting residents around the schools that sign up to ask for their help. We want them to contact us if they see youths hanging around a school, signs of a disturbance or new graffiti. It's important for us to be made aware of even minor vandalism, as that can frequently escalate to fires being set."

Pc Caroline Hope, who created School Watch, said: "With Neighbourhood Watches, schools can sometimes be left out, so this was a way to make them a focus for the community."

Officers are currently carrying out an analysis of crimes committed on school grounds to identify hotspots that can be tackled first. There are around 25 high schools and 100 primary schools in Edinburgh.

Elizabeth Woods, headteacher at Currie Primary School, said: "We just moved into a new building in October so we want to keep it in pristine condition. I think this is a great scheme."

In October, the headteacher of St Mark's RC Primary School, Patricia Barclay, said the Colinton Mains school had suffered ten vandal attacks in six months, with the latest involving youths ripping up benches and littering the playground with cans and broken glass.

In July it was reported that St John Vianney Primary School in Ivanhoe Crescent, the Inch, was being plagued by vandals who set fires in the nursery and on the all-weather sports pitch. Computers and camera equipment were also stolen during break-ins.