Partners launch festive safety campaign for the Highlands and Islands
Issued by Police Scotland
With the festive season starting to get into full swing, Police Scotland and partner agencies have launched this year's Christmas safety campaign to make sure the next few weeks are memorable for all the right reasons.
The festive strand of Operation Respect was launched in Inverness city centre today (Friday, December 1) with the weeks running up to Christmas and the New Year celebrations being the busiest time of year for retail and parties.
Operation Respect is the long-running initiative aimed at tackling issues such as anti-social behaviour, alcohol and substance misuse and other associated criminality.
Police Scotland is supported in this by various partners, including Inverness BID, Highland Council, the British Red Cross and Inverness Street Pastors among others.
Throughout the month there will be high visibility patrols in the city centre in the daytime and overnight to provide reassurance to shoppers and revellers.
Operation Respect also extends beyond Inverness with activity in towns across the Highlands and Islands during the festive period.
Inspector James Rice said: "We are delighted to be working again with key partners to ensure that Inverness and the wider region offers a safe and welcoming environment over the festive period.
"Our key priorities during this time will be keeping people safe by continuing to prevent and reduce violent crime, anti-social behaviour and retail crime.
"As well as the resources we have in place with our partners, we need the support of the public who can help keep themselves and others safe by taking responsibility for their own actions, especially when it comes to alcohol.
"The overwhelming majority of people simply want to go out, enjoy themselves and get home safely at the end of the night. From a policing perspective be rest assured we will be doing everything we can to ensure the minority does not spoil it for others.
"We recently increased the number of officers we have dedicated to Inverness city centre and this will help make sure that the city remains a safe place, either to do your Christmas shopping or enjoy a night out."
The launch of Operation Respect for the festive period coincides with the 10th anniversary of Inverness Street Pastors, who will be marking the date with a special service in the evening at Inverness Cathedral.
Mark Hadfield of Inverness Street Pastors said: "Working in partnership is a core value of Street Pastors and the evidence we've seen over the past 10 years is that working together really does help to make our streets and communities into safer and happier places.
"So we are, of course, delighted with how this year's Operation Respect has come together with all the agencies involved.
"Street Pastors highest priority during the festive season is staffing our Safe Zone on the busiest party nights in the city centre.
"This is an excellent example of partnership in practice. Police Scotland provide a van which is then rebranded as a Street Pastors Safe Zone. British Red Cross park their vehicle alongside so that together we provide a safe place for those wanting a friendly and warming break from festivities as well as any who may be in need of help and assistance."
Provost and Leader of Inverness and Area, Cllr Helen Carmichael said: “Highland Council is fully supportive of Operation Respect for the ninth year running.
"Our partnership working with police and partners was enhanced by providing a base in the Town House for the police and key staff continue to have daily partnership meetings with the agencies involved to ensure a swift resolution to any city centre anti-social behaviour issues that might arise.
"Keeping Inverness city centre safe, attractive and welcoming ensures that we have a vibrant and prospering economy for all to enjoy all year round.”
John McDonald, community safety manager for Inverness BID said: “This community safety initiative is a welcome approach to delivering a stronger, safer and more welcoming City Centre, not only for the Businesses but also for those who live, work and visit the area to shop or enjoy the amenity and hospitality available.
"This partnership is delivering across a number of key areas such as crime reduction, public reassurance, reduction in anti-social behaviour and in providing that measure of support to retail and businesses at what is their busiest period.
"Our message is simple: Stay Safe, Shop Safe and Party Safe and Enjoy this Festive Season.”
Sergeant Kevin Lawrence of British Transport Police, based in Inverness, said: "British Transport Police is delighted to support Operation Respect once again.
"The public transport network is always busier than usual at this time of year and I would urge people to travel safely.
"As with any other public space, people using the railways over the festive period should be able to enjoy themselves but I would urge that do so safely and be considerate to other passengers."