Keeping the Borders safe

Kenny Simpson, Scottish Borders Council's safer communities manager and SBC convener Alasdair Hutton, show the council's community award certificate for their 'No Cold Callers' initiative.
Kenny Simpson, Scottish Borders Council's safer communities manager and SBC convener Alasdair Hutton, show the council's community award certificate for their 'No Cold Callers' initiative.

POLICE statistics show that the Borders is one of the safest places in Scotland to live and the region’s Safer Communities Partnership intend to keep it that way - two of their initiatives being recognised at the Scottish Community Safety Network awards ceremony in Glasgow on February 22.

The partnership brings together the police and Scottish Borders Council staff working on joint projects to improve life for local residents.

This time last year Lothian & Borders Police rolled out a ‘No Cold Callers’ pilot project covering 1,000 homes in four areas of Coldstream (Woodlands Park, Lees Mill Drive, Bennecourt and Lennel Mount), plus Swinton, Hutton and Paxton (without signs) and Ayton in an effort to deter bogus callers in the areas, who particularly target the elderly. And as well as proving so successful it is being extended to other towns and villages, it also received a runner-up award in the Community Engagement section of the Communities Awards.

Residents in a ‘No Cold Calling’ zone receive preventative information, a window sticker, and signs are erected in the area. The hope is that salespeople who see the signs will not attempt to cold call on households in the zone. The initiative raises awareness within communities about bogus caller crimes and aims to tackle the large under-reporting of such incidents.

PC Justin Hulford, project co-ordinator, commented: “The zones have been extremely popular and we have also seen members of the public empowered and - with their newfound confidence - more able to repel those criminals that do occasionally enter a zone.”

When the scheme was introduced in March last year PC Hulford said: “Working with our communities we can continue to keep the Scottish Borders a safe place to live, work and visit.

“It has been found that the existence of a zone deters callers in the first place and if a caller does enter a zone, a resident finds it much easier to exercise their rights in not dealing with the person. Zones help communities make a joint stand against those callers with dishonest intentions.”

The signs indicate to would-be salespeople that they must first make themselves known to the police or residents beforehand, and the effect was immediate.

Within a day of the ‘No Cold Callers’ signs going up in Coldstream a salesman from a double glazing company called in at Coldstream Police Station asking about the signs.

“He wasn’t very happy about them, but they had the desired effect in that he came to register with us first, so that we knew there was a legitimate company working in the area,” explained Coldstream community police officer PC Nick Walker.

And reporting to Coldstream Community Council last month PC Walker said: “We continue to receive a steady stream of calls from residents in Lennel Mount, Bennecourt and Woodlands Park regarding sales persons “breaching” the areas. Police always attend and advise these people appropriately, disrupting their unwanted activities. We also have companies calling at the Police Station who have seen the signs and they are also appropriately advised.

“Phase one of this project (1000 households) has been very popular with communities and phase two is being rolled out in March to a further 2000 households - mainly in East Berwickshire but including Eccles/Leitholm/Birgham.”

Scottish Borders Safer Communities Partnership also received the top accolade at the Community Safety Network awards for their ‘managing drug related litter’ project.

This scheme aims to protect the general public from the health and safety risks associated with discarded injecting equipment, and brought together the Big River Project (Turning Point Scotland), NHS Borders Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, NHS Borders Public Health and Community Pharmacy, Lothian and Borders Police, Scottish Borders Council’s community wardens and cleansing teams, and the safer communities team at SBC.

The project results saw a 100 per cent reduction at identified hotspots; and the number of incidents involving discarded needles reduced by 57 per cent.

Patrick Joyce, service manager at the Big River Project, said: “The beauty and effectiveness of this campaign was down to the fact that service users were part of the problem but at the heart of the solution, and that this was fully adopted in the design of the project.”

Councillor Alec Nicol, chair of Scottish Borders Safer Communities Partnership, said: “To get the recognition for both of these projects is a credit to all the hard working staff and our partnership’s commitment to making the Scottish Borders the safest place to live, work and visit.”