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 today (17th May 2016).
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 HMICS Local Policing Inspection of Dumfries and Galloway Division, which contains four recommendations, is the latest in the rolling programme under which all 13 local policing divisions of Police Scotland will be inspected to assess their state, effectiveness and efficiency.
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 HMICS are the communication of ‘live-time’ information to the public during emergency situations such as flooding; the management of violent offenders through a dedicated database; the matching of special constables with initiatives in which their skills can be best used; schools initiatives and the involvement of the local scrutiny sub-committee in the division’s Continuous Improvement Group.
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.
During its inspections of each local policing division, HMICS also reviews custody facilities as part of its ongoing role in the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to assess the treatment and conditions for those detained. Unannounced inspections took place at the main custody centres at Dumfries and Stranraer while the other eight ancillary custody units were also visited.
The custody centres are well managed and the detainees commented positively on their treatment. Three recommendations were made for Police Scotland’s Custody Division relating to the monitoring of time immigration detainees spend in police custody and the future of some of the ancillary custody units.
The inspectors also commented on the resourcing of police custody centres where any gaps in staffing are filled by officers from the local division. This impacts on resources for local policing and HMICS has said it is essential the two divisions work together to address this issue.
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.
The force will be asked to incorporate the HMICS’ recommendations into its own improvement process and ensure good practice is shared across Scotland to promote continuous improvement.