Vehicles to plug police gap

A MOVE to deploy two new police community contact vehicles (CCVs) in the Borders has been welcomed by the councillor who opposed proposals to sell off three police stations last year, writes Andrew Keddie.

Lothian and Borders Police Board will meet at Newtown on Monday and is due to approve a recommendation from Chief Constable David Strang for the purchase of the vehicles at a cost of £50,000. They will supplement the existing single CCV which is based at Hawick.

In his report, Mr Strang notes that, in November last year, the board agreed to the disposal of the unmanned stations at Newcastleton, West Linton and Innerleithen – expected to generate £119,000 – and recommended that the deployment of additional CCVs should be considered.

He recalled that a local consultation exercise had been ordered on proposed changes to the opening hours of the stations at Peebles and Galashiels.

Board members heard that cutting the hours at Peebles from 9am till 5pm at Peebles, where 24 officers and three staff are based, would save £33,000, while cutting the weekend hours at Galashiels, which hosts 44 officers and nine civilians, would save a further £57,000 in annual revenue costs.

“Issues raised as part of the local consultation exercise included concerns about the loss of police visibility, accessibility and the loss of locally delivered service provision,” says Mr Strang in his report. “One solution would be the increased use of CCVs ... to offer and alternative form of police visibility, especially in areas where there are no police stations.”

He said the vehicles would be used to run surgeries in remote villages, attend local events and be used to support crime prevention and public engagement campaigns. They will also be used for major incidents “and provide reassurance and local contact”.

One will be based in the east of the division, possibly Duns, and the other in Peeblesshire, but both will be shared with East Lothian and Midlothian respectively.

Councillor Gavin Logan (Tweeddale East), who represents Scottish Borders Council on the board, said the impending deployment was “a major step forward”.

“The news of the closure of the stations at Innerleithen, West Linton and Newcastleton, coupled with the reduction of front counter hours at Peebles and Galashiels, was a blow to the Borders and Tweeddale in particular,” said Mr Logan.

“However, it is great news that two CCVs are going to be purchased. It is just a pity that the vehicle allocated to Tweeddale is going to be shared with Midlothian.

“I will be pressing hard at Monday’s board meeting for this vehicle to be stationed at Peebles as most of the funding for this project will be raised by the sale of Tweeddale police stations.

“These vehicles will be used by community beat officers in the more remote areas, have a visible presence at local events and be very useful at major incidents. All in all, this is a great step forward after losing the more traditional policing facilities.”

Monday’s board meeting will also hear a positive report on the multi-agency Scottish Borders Community Planning Partnership.

Mr Strang will highlight the success on the joint approach to reducing alcohol and drug misuse, and address violence against women.

“Overall, it is pleasing to note we have two per cent fewer crimes in the Borders compared to the same period last year,” he adds.