Last night saw the first Ward Forum in Nairn for some considerable time. It was chaired by Liz and perhaps mindful of her own assertion before the last election that the Forum had been hijacked by Highland Council it took a different format both physically and procedurally. On the panel facing the gathered reps from the “usual suspects” and a few members of the public were Liz Cowie, the ward manager, Colin, Liz, Inspector Murdo MacLeod and Graham Clark the Scottish Fire Service station manager for this area. Laurie and Michael had submitted their apologies.
Murdo and Graham made their presentations and then the lion’s share of the meeting went to the rank and file sitting facing the chair and the visitors from the emergency services. In this article we are outlining what the Inspector had to say and the subsequent responses and thoughts from the floor.
The present ward policing priorities for Nairnshire are listed on this page on the Police Scotland Website. They are tackling anti-social behaviour, drug abuse and road safety. Inspector MacLeod told the meeting that he wished to try and facilitate a bit of discussion on what the priorities would be for the forthcoming period, he asked: “Do the current priorities and objectives reflect the local public safety and community concerns. What if anything should change? What inputs do you have to assist some of the priorities?”
One member of the public said that considering road safety was one thing that could lead to more deaths than other issues it might move up the priority list. The Inspector then spoke briefly of a few issues around road safety in Nairn including congestion, traffic lights failure, rat runs and parking issues in the town centre because the lack of a traffic warden. He want on to say that “Police Scotland would like to transfer the traffic wardens across to the Council, there’s a consultation process ongoing.”
Liz then said: “The Council are reviewing the traffic wardens and how to make it sustainable in the future.” When asked if that was specifically in Nairn or
added. “ Highland wide.” Highland
When asked if she new when there would be an outcome on the review she said she didn’t know. Colin added: “It’s only been a few weeks since Sir Stephen wrote making clear that he doesn’t see traffic wardens as a part of his force.”
Tommy then mentioned the ongoing Highland Council traffic regulations changes for the town. Colin said that was a different consultation but Stephanie Whittaker was quick to state: “It’s no good putting in extra no-parking if you haven’t got someone to police it!”
Brian Stewart then made comment about the perhaps low-level nature of the priorities: “We’ve been lucky in Nairn that the general level of what might be called traditional crimes, breaking and entering, burglary, robbery, serious violence is thankfully pretty rare but it is still quite important that part of your remit should be crime prevention.”
Graham Vine then said: “Looking at that lot, anti-social behaviour probably is one of the most important things because that’s the one that impacts on most people. As far as drugs are concerned I wouldn’t be unduly concerned about the odd teenager having the odd spliff somewhere in the bushes but I would like to see any drug dealers being severely hounded." Graham then mentioned that he wouldn't like to see hit squads of traffic wardens coming from Inverness to scare shoppers away.
Inspector MacLeod replied to that: “Unfortunately that hit squad is down to two.” He moved on to ask again if the priorities were in the right area. The conversation moved on to drugs. Brian Stewart said:
“I worked for some years in areas to do with drug law enforcement and part of the dilemma is drawing the distinction between drugs in so far as they are a component of organised crime and actual serious criminal activity which goes into fraud and money laundering and all of that which is quite rightly a national as well as perhaps to some extent a local priority, that’s the dealing end of the spectrum. The drug users thing, drug abuse is as much a social welfare and a medical problem as it is a law enforcement problem. I would not see it as the most efficient use of police time to be spending your days or your evenings roaming the equivalent of the tenement blocks kicking doors down and seeing if somebody is actually consuming drugs. That is a problem but it is a social problem and it, broadly speaking, has the most detrimental effects on the people concerned. It’s not something which seriously affects public order, seriously upsets a wider community in the way that anti-social behaviour does or results in a serious risk of death of innocent people. I’m not suggesting that the death of drug addicts is not a tragic thing but that’s not really a police matter. My instinct having worked in
South America, having been in
places where it is a serious issue, I wouldn’t be that inclined to put it as
high as it currently is in your priorities.”
Colin however was far more hawkish: “Can I just say that I think that if you live next door to a drug user or someone who is selling drugs and see the social damage that is done. I don’t have a difficulty if the police have reasonable suspicions and have a warrant then they do kick down somebody’s door and address the problem absolutely seriously when they have that kind of thing.”
John Mackie also asked for the road safety aspect to be put higher: “Drugs is still a problem but I would suspect you will still target these issues. Road safety affects an awful lot more people and we are not just talking about parking in the High Street, we are talking about all sorts of things: kids running about on bikes with no lights in the winter is an issue. There are a lot of things, drunk drivers, the whole lot, the whole issue about road safety.”
Sheena Baker reminisced about a meeting in the Courthouse around 20 years ago when things were perceived to be much worse, she said: “You get waves of it.” She continued “I think anti-social behaviour, in all aspects, is very important and I think that should stay at the top. I think the very fact that it is at the top and we are where we are at the moment, it’s good, let’s keep it that way. Because if it becomes bad again…why it was such a big meeting was because it was actually at the stage where we had people coming to stay in the caravan site and things like that for a few nights, after one night they were going and that’s not what this town wants. This town wants to be a tourist town and welcoming, not only to its citizens but also to everyone else that also wants to come and visit it.”
Inspector MacLeod then gave everyone post-it notes to list their individual priorities and place them on a board in order of preference 1,2,3.