Police officers and staff in Dumfries and Galloway have a strong sense of local identity and work hard to provide an efficient and effective service to their communities, says a report published this week.
The report by HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland found that crimes rates in the Dumfries and Galloway Division of Police Scotland are among the lowest in Scotland, while detections are the highest in the country.
Importantly for a very rural division, the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads also decreased by 30% and an initiative to support more mature drivers is highlighted as an example of good practice.
However there have been increases in all categories of offences, apart from serious violent incidents.
HM Inspector of Constabulary, Derek Penman said: “The trends in Dumfries and Galloway mirror the long term trends across the country of decreasing crime and rising detection. Although there are signs these positive national trends may be slowing or reversing in Dumfries and Galloway, the area is still one of the safest in Scotland in which to live and the likelihood of offenders being brought to justice is greater there than in most other areas.
“The communities across Dumfries and Galloway should be assured that the division is aware of the issues and is taking steps to address them.”
The inspection team found there is a strong sense of local identity in Dumfries and Galloway, not only among police officers and staff but also across the local communities. As a result, the impact of some of the changes resulting from the reform of policing in Scotland may have been more keenly felt by those who live and work in the division.
HMICS found the division has a good approach to partnership working and has developed local solutions to address a wide range of issues. In particular, it welcomes the approach to school based initiatives saying they assist in keeping young people safe.
The area has an ageing population with around one third aged 60 years and over. Analysis of road collisions showed a rise in the number of injury crashes involving older people and, as a result, the division introduced a Mature Driver Scheme which gives free driver evaluation to those over the age of 70. Other examples of effective practice identified by
The report highlights that the introduction of local, regional and national policing units, which works well in compact, heavily populated areas of the country, does not operate as effectively or efficiently in an area with long lines of communication or travel on the periphery of the force area.
Due to the extensive rural nature of the division, its boundaries with England and Northern Ireland and major road networks which pass through it, HMICS looked in greater detail at how it manages cross boundary crime. There are established and effective relationships within Police Scotland, and with other UK forces and partner agencies. There is evidence of the effective management of intelligence and coordinated preventative activity, and there have been some notable successes in terms of enforcement activity.
Chief Superintendent Gary Ritchie, Local Policing Commander for the Dumfries and Galloway Division, welcomed the report which he said clearly acknowledges the ‘positive progress’ being made to deliver the local policing plan.
Mr Ritchie said: “The report identifies a number of local examples of good practice, such as our Mature Driving Scheme and our use of a Virtual Operational Support Team to communicate ‘live time’ information for the public during emergency situations such as the recent episodes of severe weather. The amount of work carried out in local schools to support initiatives have also been identified as areas of good practice for the division. We will continue to be innovative and creative in our approach to make sure that people get the service they need when they need it.”
Dumfries and Galloway Council leader Ronnie Nicholson said: “Locally, officers are being suffocated by centralisation, reducing their ability to respond to local incidents. Our officers know the job and their communities best. Yet police chiefs are dictating that officers across the country all respond in the same way, ignoring what might work best for different communities.”