Hawick provost calls for police CAT to be disbanded

Hawick provost Watson McAteer has called for a police community action team costing tax payers £570,000 a year to be disbanded and urged Scottish Borders Council to create an ‘in-house’ alternative instead.
Hawick provost Watson McAteer. Photo: Bill McBurnieHawick provost Watson McAteer. Photo: Bill McBurnie
Hawick provost Watson McAteer. Photo: Bill McBurnie

In April 2018 a Police Scotland Community Action Team (CAT) was established in the Scottish Borders to deal with a range of low level anti-social behaviour, including dog fouling, parking and minor crimes.

At the time the £250,000 annual cost to local tax payers was felt necessary because of a lack of regular police officers patrolling the area.

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The CAT provided the option of deploying dedicated officers in a high profile way to tackle issues impacting on communities.

But despite what Mr McAteer calls “limited success” in 2020 Scottish Borders Council decided to double the numbers of the CAT at an increased cost to the tax payer of £570,000.

Mr McAteer, a former detective chief superintendent head with Lothian and Borders Police, said: “This sizeable investment has not produced the expected benefits and perhaps is being managed in a less than transparent way within Scottish Borders Council.

“This substantial investment in policing was made at the same time that this council decided to remove town centre CCTV across the Borders leaving our communities vulnerable and forcing many to fund their own systems.

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“Recent statistics, disclosed at a private council meeting, supported evidence that little material change has taken place and consequently the continued support for the CAT cannot be justified.”

Mr McAteer said his views were not a criticism of the officers in the team who “have tried their best despite challenging operational pressures”.

He added: “I do believe there is an alternative and more effective use of the recurring £570,000 and have suggested the council establish an ‘in-house’ enforcement team that could deal at a very local level with unacceptable behaviours that continue to blight our town and impact our economic future.

“Such a group could make a real difference tackling amongst other matters dog fouling, fly-tipping and litter. This could also be linked to decriminalisation of parking controls removing the onus on policing creating a warden-style service to manage parking and traffic-related problems impacting our High Streets and our economic recovery.”

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In response, a spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council said a review of the CAT was forthcoming, adding: “The council has agreed a review into the governance arrangements of the Community Action Team Oversight Group, which will involve elected members and Police Scotland.”

Mr McAteer is standing as an independent in the Hawick and Hermitage ward at local elections on May 5. A full list of all candidates standing across the Borders will be published after the nomination deadline on Wednesday, March 30.