Community Safety

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:03 pm on 21st February 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 3:03 pm, 21st February 2007

There is a great whiff of electioneering, which is a pity in a debate that should be much more consensual.

I will focus on low-level crime and the fear of crime, which my colleague Kenny MacAskill mentioned. We all know the realities of the groups of people on the street who are bevvied up, who batter the wing mirrors off cars, and who are noisy and threatening, and we all know their loci—the streets, and empty store car parks and municipal car parks. We all have in-trays full of constituents' concerns about such matters. Mobile phones allow such groups to be mobile, which wastes police time because the police must chase a moving and ever-dispersing target. Communities are frightened to come out, to speak and to report incidents because they are understandably afraid that they will be victimised or their property damaged.

The SNP supported the introduction of ASBOs. They have their place, and those who issue them mean well. However, we know that for some hoodlums—I will use that word—ASBOs have become a badge of honour and a rite of passage. To an extent, Parliament must draw back from having the highest expectations of ASBOs. They have their place, but for some individuals they are not a cure.

People's perceptions also mean that decent youngsters become stigmatised. The noisy and boisterous group on the corner will probably be considered to be part of the problem and youthful exuberance will become as feared and intimidating as the real McCoy.

I will give a brief map of the problems, the solutions to which are complex. Drinking, which has been referred to, and to a lesser extent drugs, make people lose their inhibitions and increase aggression. Fire-water fires people up. The ringleaders are the real baddies who lead groups. They have lieutenants and camp followers who gain some community recognition for being part of the team. Boredom is ever the cry of the young, and always will be, and disconnection from the community is another factor.

No simple solutions exist. We agree with some solutions that have been offered. Fixed penalties have their place, so why waste police time with drunken louts on a street corner when a fixed penalty can be issued to get that sorted? Money would be spent on penalties rather than on buying more drink. I commend the marking of bottles and whatever else it takes to stop proprietors selling drink to underage purchasers or to adults for people who are underage, as Mr Pringle said. We must have severe penalties for that.

As for education, I have previously mentioned the up to you project in the Borders, which is a mentoring project in which pupils of Peebles high school go to feeder primary schools to discuss issues with primary 7 pupils. That works for the primary pupils and the secondary pupils, who are properly trained. The project is now to be extended to Penicuik.

The minister mentioned CCTV, but that must be used in a discriminating fashion so that it picks out ringleaders and does not catch in the net the innocent or those who have just gone along for the excitement. They should be separated out and the penalties should be different. I suggest simple measures such as better lighting in some areas, so that people cannot move about in the dark.

As for boredom, the selling-off of playing fields and community centres must stop. Young people must be engaged so that their energies are properly used.

The disconnection from the community is part of life: it is part of being an adolescent. People grow apart from their communities as they grow apart from their parents and they return as they mature. Sullen teenagehood will always exist, but it must not be destructive teenagehood. In that regard, the comments that my colleague Kenny MacAskill made about deprivation need to be addressed properly.

As I said, no party-political solution exists. If the debate becomes just a tub-thumping exercise or a bidding war, we will do communities no service whatever.