Cllr Hugh Hunter, leader of South Ayrshire Council, on his Council’s approach to fighting crime.
South Ayrshire Council is recognised across Scotland as a centre of best practice in delivering safer communities. The key to creating safer communities is partnership working and in South Ayrshire our Community Safety Partnership has been recognised by the Scottish Government as an area of good practice both in terms of dealing with antisocial behaviour and delivering youth justice services.
Our main priorities for the next three years will focus on alcohol misuse, violent crime – including violence against women – and antisocial behaviour.
In South Ayrshire we are working in partnership with local communities and agencies to reduce substance misuse, improve road safety, promote safety in the home, and tackle the effects of antisocial behaviour on the health of local people.
To achieve these objectives we draw on the experience of the full range of interested agencies, including the Council, Police, Fire Service and local Community Groups to identify the root causes of problems and set realistic objectives. Having clearly set out these objectives we design effective and innovative solutions which command the support of our local communities. We keep systematic records of our initiatives, which provide monitoring and evaluation information for partner agencies and the Scottish Government.
To take just a few examples:
Like many communities, Ayr has suffered from problems in its town
centre – particularly late at night – and our SafeAyr Weekend Zone
initiative has proved an outstanding success and has now been
replicated by many other Scottish councils. The SafeAyr Weekend Zone
sees the Council work closely with the police, taxi drivers and night
club and bar owners to manage the problems which can arise from large
numbers of people emptying into the streets of the town centre within a
few short hours late at night. Taxi Marshalls manage the queues of
people waiting for taxis, stop queue jumping and thereby reducing the
potential for violence. This makes taxi drivers feel safer,
encouraging more taxis to operate in the town at night, which helps
clear the streets as quickly as possible. (The success of the town
centre Taxi Marshall scheme has had a wider benefit in that we now use
it as a model of best practice for managing large scale events such as
Ayr Gold Cup.) Roads with high concentrations of pubs and night clubs
are closed off to all vehicles other than taxis. Public toilets are
opened before and after the night clubs close, thus eliminating public
urination. The town centre also benefits from a greater and more
visible police presence, regularly including a mobile police office.
The SafeAyr Weekend Zone has recently been externally evaluated and the
results of that evaluation were extremely positive – a fact of which we
are naturally very proud.
Other examples of the good practice we have developed are our SafeAyr
Shore, which built on the success of the town centre initiative and
deals with particular problems found on the seafront.
Our Pathfinder project is a targeted approach which takes young people
who are involved in, or at risk of becoming involved in, antisocial
behaviour or substance abuse, and gives them the opportunity to
participate in highly focussed sessions of team-building, camping and
outdoor activities to discourage drug and alcohol misuse and build
self-confidence and self-esteem.
We have developed a re-deployable CCTV model which can put cameras into hot-spot areas to support the efforts of the police.
Our bottle marking scheme encourages licensees to put an invisible code
on alcohol bottles, which can then be traced back to the seller if
confiscated from an under-aged drinker. We have found local licensees
to be very supportive of this policy and a good example of the Council
and local businesses working together with the police.
As a Council – and as a Conservative Administration – we are very much
of the view that there is no substitute for a visible police presence
to deter crime in our communities and welcome the recent announcement
of changes to the community policing model which will mean more police
on our streets and in our communities. This very much fits with our
ethos of concentrating on prevention rather than cure.