Community Safety

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:35 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 2:35 pm, 21st February 2007

An important discussion and debate is to be had with the police about resources and how they are deployed, and about the challenges in the spending review for further resources to be made available to the police. In the work that we have done already, we have been smart in liberating the police from some duties that they did not need to do, so that they could tackle the really critical issues in local communities.

Resources are increasingly targeted at the areas in communities that need them the most. We are achieving results. Initiatives such as safe city centres are returning our streets to our law-abiding citizens.

We backed our antisocial behaviour legislation and wider work to promote community safety with funding of £130 million over four years for community safety partnerships to enable a wide range of local services, including community wardens, antisocial behaviour investigation teams, mediation and witness and victim support. We provided additional money for noise teams and youth justice, and £1 million was made available for additional closed-circuit television projects, to help combat and detect crime.

By the end of 2004, every council area in Scotland had at least one community warden team working with local people in hard-pressed neighbourhoods, to prevent and tackle antisocial behaviour and to improve the local environment. More than 550 wardens are now patrolling our streets to help make them safer.

We know that local agencies are increasingly making use of the powers available to them under the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004, which I have to say was passed in the face of overblown and rather desperate opposition at the time. By the end of last September, there had been 13 dispersal orders, 21 closure orders, 1,908 noise warnings, 118 fixed-penalty notices for noise, 170 vehicle seizures and 1,900 vehicle warnings. It is clear that we are taking firm action to tackle antisocial behaviour and, critically, responding to people who, in the past, would have been told that nothing could be done.

Following a successful 12-month pilot in Tayside, when more than 3,000 fines were issued, we announced last week that police throughout Scotland will have new powers to issue fixed-penalty notices for minor incidents of antisocial behaviour, saving them time and reducing the burden on the courts. Fixed-penalty notices are immediate and visible justice for victims and keep officers out on the beat longer. Indeed, the Tayside pilot showed that it was possible to have 1,300 extra hours of police time, with officers out doing what we want the police to do, yet the Tories have taken a dismissive approach to a process that has been welcomed by local communities.

We are taking unprecedented steps to tackle the mindlessly violent acts that blight too many of our communities. We know that real change will take time, but we have made significant progress over the past year. The first national knife amnesty, intelligence-led police enforcement campaigns and the steps that we have taken to strengthen the law are some examples of our direct action to tackle the problems head on.

We acknowledge that drugs and drug misusers have a serious impact on our communities.