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Cllr Hugh Hunter, leader of South Ayrshire Council, on his Council's approach to fighting crime.

Hhunter South Ayrshire Council is recognised across Scotland as a centre of best practice in delivering safer communities. The key to creating safer communities is partnership working and in South Ayrshire our Community Safety Partnership has been recognised by the Scottish Government as an area of good practice both in terms of dealing with antisocial behaviour and delivering youth justice services.

Our main priorities for the next three years will focus on alcohol misuse, violent crime - including violence against women – and antisocial behaviour.

In South Ayrshire we are working in partnership with local communities and agencies to reduce substance misuse, improve road safety, promote safety in the home, and tackle the effects of antisocial behaviour on the health of local people.

To achieve these objectives we draw on the experience of the full range of interested agencies, including the Council, Police, Fire Service and local Community Groups to identify the root causes of problems and set realistic objectives.  Having clearly set out these objectives we design effective and innovative solutions which command the support of our local communities.  We keep systematic records of our initiatives, which provide monitoring and evaluation information for partner agencies and the Scottish Government.

To take just a few examples:

Like many communities, Ayr has suffered from problems in its town centre – particularly late at night – and our SafeAyr Weekend Zone initiative has proved an outstanding success and has now been replicated by many other Scottish councils. The SafeAyr Weekend Zone sees the Council work closely with the police, taxi drivers and night club and bar owners to manage the problems which can arise from large numbers of people emptying into the streets of the town centre within a few short hours late at night. Taxi Marshalls manage the queues of people waiting for taxis, stop queue jumping and thereby reducing the potential for violence.  This makes taxi drivers feel safer, encouraging more taxis to operate in the town at night, which helps clear the streets as quickly as possible. (The success of the town centre Taxi Marshall scheme has had a wider benefit in that we now use it as a model of best practice for managing large scale events such as Ayr Gold Cup.) Roads with high concentrations of pubs and night clubs are closed off to all vehicles other than taxis. Public toilets are opened before and after the night clubs close, thus eliminating public urination. The town centre also benefits from a greater and more visible police presence, regularly including a mobile police office.

The SafeAyr Weekend Zone has recently been externally evaluated and the results of that evaluation were extremely positive - a fact of which we are naturally very proud.

Other examples of the good practice we have developed are our SafeAyr Shore, which built on the success of the town centre initiative and deals with particular problems found on the seafront.

Our Pathfinder project is a targeted approach which takes young people who are involved in, or at risk of becoming involved in, antisocial behaviour or substance abuse, and gives them the opportunity to participate in highly focussed sessions of team-building, camping and outdoor activities to discourage drug and alcohol misuse and build self-confidence and self-esteem.

We have developed a re-deployable CCTV model which can put cameras into hot-spot areas to support the efforts of the police.

Our bottle marking scheme encourages licensees to put an invisible code on alcohol bottles, which can then be traced back to the seller if confiscated from an under-aged drinker.  We have found local licensees to be very supportive of this policy and a good example of the Council and local businesses working together with the police. 

As a Council – and as a Conservative Administration – we are very much of the view that there is no substitute for a visible police presence to deter crime in our communities and welcome the recent announcement of changes to the community policing model which will mean more police on our streets and in our communities. This very much fits with our ethos of concentrating on prevention rather than cure.


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