Police chief quizzed on call responses and deployment

A police chief has told local councillors that problems with the 101 non-emergency hotline should be resolved “within the next six weeks”.

“It has been a real baptism of fire,” admitted Assistant Chief Constable Kate Thomson at a meeting of Scottish Borders Council.

She was responding to queries from several elected members about difficulties experienced by constituents in accessing the control room at Bilston Glen near Penicuik which now deals with calls from Fife and Forth Valley as well as the former Lothian and Borders area.

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“The 101 service has been below the standard we would expect, but I am assured the technology and staffing issues will be resolved within the next six weeks and we are already seeing a difference.

“The service is not perfect but it is improving.”

Councillor Watson McAteer, a retired divisional police commander, highlighted a fall in local crime detection rates, noting that in the Teviotdale and Liddesdale area in the first four months of this year the solve rate had been reported as 45%, compared to 69% in the corresponding period of 2014.

“Is this something we are going to have to get used to?” he asked.

Assistant Chief Constable Thomson told him: “While we have to prioritise serious crimes, such as housebreaking, we can never be satisfied with a slide in solve rates. There are plans in place to address this and we will do our best to get back to where we need to be.”

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Asked about officer deployment levels in the Borders, Assistant Chief Contable Thomson said: “My personal view is that if we start disclosing the number of officers in any area, we are playing into the hands of criminals who are very smart at working out our coverage.”

After the meeting, Mr McAteer told us: “While I can understand the police reluctance to disclose the number of officers being deployed at a particular time, the logic that such disclosure potentially helps criminals can only be true if the figures are below what might be regarded as safe and effective.

“Failing to reassure the public that sufficient officers are available is unfortunately just as likely to be used by those intent on committing crime in our area.”