Mark Williams: Local issues still priority for Edinburgh officers

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THE creation of Police Scotland has not changed how local police tackle local issues and in fact has given us greater ability through extra policing resource to respond to local needs.

The fact is that policing in the Capital continues to be guided by local priorities and concern for keeping people safe.

The policing of prostitution is a complex area of social policy. We work with Edinburgh City Council and a wide range of partners to ensure our policing approach reflects their priorities as set out in our local policing plan.

But the key test for any policing approach is the result. That is why I consider last week’s visits to licensed premises to have been a success. Planned for months – well before April 1 – the operation has so far resulted in three people in Edinburgh and Dundee being charged with drugs offences and assets worth over £500,000 seized. But, perhaps most significantly, we also found evidence of human trafficking.

That human trafficking might be taking place is deeply worrying and we might not have garnered that evidence had we not conducted the visits last week. The people who suffer most from such trafficking are the vulnerable women that Margo MacDonald and I are determined to help and support.

It is right that we debate how best we protect vulnerable women in any given scenario, in any given location or within any environment. Prostitution exists whether we like it or not and I acknowledge that there is no easy way of dealing with it. I think it’s more difficult to claim our visits were wrong when they have uncovered criminal activity. We will tackle criminal activity wherever we find it.

The other area in which we have been challenged is in our approach to housebreaking.

We recognise the impact that such crimes have on our communities. That is why our Community Investigation Units were formed – to provide a focused and targeted approach to addressing these issues and bringing those responsible to justice. We are delighted with the recent results of the unit. However, we cannot be complacent and will continue to robustly investigate whenever a crime is reported.

Police Scotland may have only been in existence since 1 April, but the officers policing the streets of Edinburgh are the same as in March and the ones who will continue to keep them safe in the future – by addressing local priorities through proven approaches.

• Mark Williams is police commander for Edinburgh