Questions asked about crime scene response times

BurglarlyUnfortunately, there’s been a spate of house burglaries or break-ins in the South Lochaber area in the past few weeks. Whilst local police officers have attended quickly, residents expressed concern about a delay in getting forensic officers to examine the crime scene. Upon investigating, Fort William based Inspector Donald Campbell explained to me that since the creation of a national police force, forensic services are separately operated by the Scottish Police Authority. The Scottish Government wanted an independent forensic service. I didn’t realise this, and I am sure most people wouldn’t know this was the case. So, police officers attending a burglary request attendance of an SPA Crime Scene Officer. Perhaps because of our geographical location, they are frequently unable to attend and local CID officers (who are already trained in crime scene examination) undertake the work anyway. That seems a rather convoluted process, especially when residents affected want to get back into their home and tidy up any mess or repair damage.
Whilst understanding the reasoning for this separation, it does seem to lead to unnecessary delays, in sparsely populated areas. Councillors have a regular opportunity to question the Chief Superintendent responsible for the Highland area. Seizing the opportunity, I asked for reassurance that response times haven’t increased since Police Scotland took over, and that there was no decline in service. He felt the service was better because it was using experienced officers specialising in this work. However, he wouldn’t respond to suggestions that the real problem is a lack of staff and the possibility that there is only one Crime Scene Officer covering the whole Highland region. However, Ian Ross from the Scottish Police Authority agreed to look at this issue, to see if there are any particular problems. I’ve followed that up with a letter asking him to look at four things:
1.That that response times for attendance requests have not declined since the Scottish Police Authority took responsibility for providing forensic services.
2. The process following a request for attendance, which is then refused and subsequently attended by CID. And how any delay in these circumstances is minimised.
3. Whether there are adequate numbers of Crime Scene Officers covering the Highland region and if this is not the case that efforts are being made to recruit suitable staff.
4. Whether Crime Scene Officers are located in geographically appropriate areas to provide a suitable service for the whole region.

Photo credit: Burglarly!!! by Akaitori under CC by SA 2.0

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