Ellon police chief: “Crime down, and detections up”

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ELLON police inspector Steve Pratt has spoken candidly to the Times about what he perceives as the area’s strengths and problems in relation to crime.

In the interview at the town’s Police Station, Inspector Pratt says that overall, the area’s crime statistics make for positive reading.

“Crime is down, and detections are up,” he says.

“But there remain problems, both with actual crime and the public perception of crime. The public still perceive there to be problems with underage drinking, vandalism and anti-social behaviour in the town.

“Ellon has long had a reputation as a den of underage drinking, but in eight years I can say confidently that it’s a problem which has diminished in scale. Of course, we’ll never eradicate these things, but they are problems which have decreased in severity.”

Speaking about police engagement with the community, Inspector Pratt said that there had been a veritable revolution since he had first taken the position.

He said: “The police as a body is much, much more responsive to community concerns.

“We send representatives to almost all community council meetings in the area, and work closely with local politicians and public bodies. We are more responsive than ever, I’d say. PC Ian Ivancic does a lot of work with community groups, and working with young people.”

Asked what the area’s main ‘problem’ was, Inspector Pratt reported unequivocally that speeding was the main complaint which the station received on a day-to-day basis.

“Every consultation we have brings up speeding as an issue. We’ve put a lot of effort into tackling this problem, with officers deployed in built-up areas of Formartine on a daily basis. We’re not out to catch people, simply to enforce the limits, which are there for a reason.

“We’ve been involved in a number of initiatives designed to encourage young drivers to drive responsibly, including the Turriff Motor Fest on May 15, where we’ll have a stall. We’ve also been involved in producing leaflets for local secondaries which set out in plain language their responsibilities as road users.

“Otherwise, we’ve been involved in crackdowns on anti-social driving in Ellon itself, with plain clothes officers monitoring the problem.”

He added that the area did have other problems, but that they were no more serious than those faced by other communities across the north-east.

“Every community has drugs,” he said. “But in Formartine there isn’t really a theft problem. In a calendar year, you can count on one hand the number of burglaries in Ellon. There isn’t a high volume of acquisitive crime, or violence. But at the same time, we are still finding drugs in the course of our routine stops, and acting on tip-offs. Cocaine, for example, is associated with disposable income, so there isn’t the same problem with people stealing to fund their habits.

“We are actively working to increase our presence in some of the outlying villages, with a mobile police office. We’re very rarely called to incidents in these places, but we have actively tried to increase our presence in places like Newburgh, Foveran and Udny Station.

“People like to know that there is a visible police presence, even if the mobile office has caused some concern where residents aren’t used to the sight of it!”