Roddy Smith: Clock is ticking on jewellery shop raids

The Gold Watch Scheme is aimed at preventing raids on jewellers' shops. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Gold Watch Scheme is aimed at preventing raids on jewellers' shops. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Gold Watch scheme is latest bid to tackle crime, writes Roddy Smith

Essential Edinburgh and a number of partners launched a new project in recent weeks, aimed at preventing raids on jewellers’ shops in the Capital.

Gold Watch was launched in collaboration with Police Scotland, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre at the instigation of city centre jewellers concerned at recent high-profile, violent raids on shops by armed gangs.

Essential Edinburgh was able to step into the breach and work with others to deliver a solution based on our experience – two schemes already running for some time have seen a big, positive impact on both shoplifting and hotel crime.

We are now hopeful that our Gold Watch scheme will be as successful as Check Out – which has helped reduce retail crime – and Check In, which has tackled criminal activity in our hotels. All of these programmes work by utilising real-time sharing of data and ­intelligence.

And all of these programmes are important parts of the work that we deliver, as the company that runs the city centre’s Business Improvement District, to make the people who live, work in and visit the wonderful heart of Edinburgh feel safe and secure. All of the evidence says that we are on the right tracks. Consider the following statistics.

Check Out continues to be a huge success, with shoplifting down last year by 0.9 per cent year-on-year and 3.5 per cent compared to the five-year average. More than 187 retailers are signed up to Check Out, an increase of 4 per cent on the previous year.

We continue to support Check In, an innovative coalition of hoteliers, tackling hotel crime in Edinburgh, creating a safer environment for residents, staff and visitors within the hotels.

Essential Edinburgh organises Pub Watch, a forum for Rose Street businesses to discuss security and raise any issues associated with cleanliness and access, and we finance two CCTV cameras in the BID area; one on the corner of Castle Street/Rose Street and one on George Street/North Castle Street. During the 2014-2015 year these two cameras were use as the principal cameras in 336 incidents, an increase of 4 per cent compared to the same period the year before.

In addition to all of this, Essential Edinburgh continues to fund two transport marshalls in George Street, who are linked by radio with CCTV and Police Scotland. They monitor weekend queues at taxi stances and provide public transport information to get people home as quickly and as safely as possible using suitable transport. .

So how does all of this activity stack up? What kind of impact does it have? Figures from Police Scotland for April 2014 to March 2015 are hugely positive, particularly in some areas. Recorded crime is down 13 per cent from the previous year and down 13 per cent on the five-year average.

The level of decrease in shoplifting I have already mentioned. The figures below relate to year-on-year statistics for April 2014 to March 2015 and comparisons to the five-year average:

• Serious assault – down 2 per cent and down 9.4 per cent on five-year average

• Robbery - level but down 32 per cent on the five-year average

• Domestic housebreaking – down 12.1 per cent and down 27.9 per cent on five-year average

• Theft – down 21.3 per cent and down 12.8 per cent on five-year average

All of this is very encouraging. Safe and Secure is one of the key pillars of our activity and we believe that the services we provide create genuine additionality – adding to those ­statutory services provided by police, council and others – to make our wonderful city centre one of the safest in the country.

In addition, for our members – the levy-paying businesses of the city centre who are putting their money where their mouth is and generating £1 million of extra investment in the city centre each year – the activity provides genuine financial advantages also. Reduced crime means significant savings.

So while we are encouraged by progress, we remain committed to continuing to look at where we can create additional value.

There are areas, such as in tackling minor assaults and business housebreaking, where there remains work to be done.

Essential Edinburgh will continue to work closely with our partners to help deliver the safest possible 
city centre for all of us to enjoy to the full.

Roddy Smith, chief executive, Essential Edinburgh