Support service sparks 20 police calls a month

St Mary's Road, Bishopbriggs
St Mary's Road, Bishopbriggs

A support service for vulnerable youngsters has become the most common call out location for police in East Dunbartonshire.

The Stepdown project — which is based at St Mary’s Kenmure secure unit campus in Bishopbriggs — was subject to 237 incidents between July 2013 and 2014.

Around 10 per cent of all police call outs in Bishopbriggs originate from the location, which officers attend more frequently than any other site within the entire local authority.

By far the most common type of incident was for ‘missing persons’ with 93 call outs, while there were 38 reported assaults and a further 34 calls to help assist staff.

The figures were revealed by local Chief Inspector Rob Hay in a letter written to Councillor Billy Hendry.

CI Hay said the situation at the Stepdown project requires immediate attention, while Councillor Hendry said such a drain on police resources was simply ‘unsustainable’.

Mr Hendry said: “I was startled by the figures — policing in Bishopbriggs is taking a serious knock due to the number of call outs to this facility.

“Many residents will be alarmed as to just how much of our local resources are going into this institution, despite the fact none of the youngsters who live there are under the care of the local authority.

“The situation is unsustainable,” he added. “The Stepdown project represents a significant drain on police resources and is taking officers away from their duties within the community.

“Police have to spend too much time there when residents would rather see them on the beat tackling anti-social behaviour and underage drinking.

“This is by no means a criticism of the police and I will be looking to engage with Cora for some answers.”

CI Hay said: “The underlying circumstances which require such frequent police attendance must be the subject of scrutiny.

“I have requested that the Care Inspectorate satisfy themselves that there are no matters requiring their attention.”

He added: “I have proposed an alternative model whereby police support could be made available in a manner that significantly lessens the burden on local resources and this is subject to ongoing discussion.

“The level of incidents occurring in the Step Down project is a matter of concern to me, and improving the current situation is of the utmost priority.”

Stepdown is a community project established to provide care and support services for children, young people and families.

It serves as a transition for those leaving a secure unit to provide them with independent living skills.

According to the Board of Managers of St Mary’s Kenmure, police contact was above normal levels during July 2013 to July 2014 and included ‘routine administrative contacts’.

A spokesman said: “The various secure and community services based on the St Mary’s Kenmure campus deal with young people with a range of complex needs.

“They work closely with the local Police Area Commander and his staff through regular liaison meetings.”

He added: “In the period in question, July 2013-July 2014, Police contact was higher than normal. However, in recent months police contact has reverted to previous regular levels.

“It is important to note that the levels of contact during the period in question included routine administrative contacts, as well as the duties of assistance required of the police due to the nature of the services provided.”