‘Operation Festive’ to tackle anti-social behaviour in Stirling

Central Scotland Police have this week begun an operation to try to tackle anti-social behaviour in Stirling. The decision to implement a dedicated team in the township comes just under 6 weeks before Christmas, which usually provides a peak in anti-social behaviour in Central Scotland.

Dubbed “Operation Festive”, the team which is made up of 6 policemen and woman are to visit all businesses and licenced premises in the town centre. The purpose of their visits will be to highlight and address any issues that may be caused by anti-social behaviour. The task force will also provide advice to all stewards in the town centre on how to deal with and react to all levels of anti-social activities. Furthermore, policemen and woman will work to train staff in off licences on how to cope with the possible influx of anti-social behaviour.

Head of the task force is Constable Bob Howison, who works as Community Officer for the City Centre of Stirling.  After the operation began on Monday 14th November, he outlined Britain’s drinking culture as a prominent source of anti-social behaviour. He said:

“Excessive drinking is a common source of anti-social behaviour and we will be encouraging pubs and clubs to promote a safe drinking culture.”

Alcohol consumption is historically at its peak during the festive season and police in Scotland have long since struggled to cope with the effect that our drinking culture has on anti-social behaviour.  The Prison Reform Trust’s annual briefing in 2011 showed that in Scotland, children who have begun binge drinking by the age of 16 are 90% more likely to have criminal convictions by the age of 30.The briefing also showed that in almost half of violent crimes (48%) the victim believed the offender or offenders to be under the influence of alcohol.

Constable Howison also explained how the force aims to tackle the problem of theft in Stirling. Officers in the town’s centre will hand out free purse bells and chains. They will be given by police to vulnerable shoppers such as the elderly and mothers with prams or pushchairs who can be easily distracted.  The bell will ring should the bag or purse be grabbed suddenly which will act as an alarm to a crime being committed and are designed to deter would-be thieves from attempting to steal purses and bags from those vulnerable to crime. Chains make purses or bags harder to steal as they can be attached to a larger item like a pushchair, therefore be more difficult to steal.

Operation Festive’s chief also sent out a warning to all those travelling into Stirling for Christmas shopping. He stated that:

 “Simple steps should be taken when out shopping, especially in crowded areas. Always keep your handbag close to your body and keep it closed. Do not leave it unattended and do not leave it in a trolley. Be aware of who is around you and stay alert if you are in crowded places. Don’t let anybody distract you in order to get to your valuables. If you have any suspicions then report them to the police or security staff immediately.”

Despite the operation’s current and proposed efforts in trying to deal with anti-social behaviour in Stirling, some are still sceptical over the team’s potential to effectively tackle the issue.  Local resident Tom Watson, 18, who was interviewed over social networking site Facebook, stated

“I think this is quite ambitious from the police and don’t think such a small team will be able to tackle a problem that covers the whole of Stirling”

He went on to say that in his opinion, “the team will probably be unable to deal with it”. Last year in Stirling, per 1000 of the population of Stirlingshire, there were 55 reported incidents of Shoplifting. Cases of ‘other theft’ stood at 118 per 1000 while there were 177 reported incidents of vandalism. In Mr Watson’s opinion, the team of only 6 policemen and woman could be “completely overrun with their workload.”

A survey that was conducted on Facebook also showed some scepticism over Operation festive. In response to the question “Operation festive is a Stirling initiative by Central Scotland Police to tackle anti-social behaviour in the run up to Christmas, do you think it can be successful in tackling anti-social behaviour in Stirling”, none voted that they thought it could be successful. All voted that it could not help to reduce anti-social behaviour in Stirling. While one user of the site jestingly added the option “You’d need the British Army to tackle the ***** in Stirling”. Three voted for the third option. The poll, then, showed some scepticism over the operation.

Operation Festive will end on January 4. Until then, Central Scotland Police will work to tackle any anti-social behaviour in Stirling town centre.  Despite efforts that policemen and woman will dedicate to Operation Festive, some scepticism over the effect that it can have seemingly exists.

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