Monday, 16 March 2009

Police bring Tardis-style boxes back into use

THEY are perhaps more instantly recognised today as Dr Who's time-travelling Tardis. But police in the Capital are about to turn the clock back more than 40 years by bringing police boxes back into use.

The Lothian and Borders force sees the iconic boxes – forever associated with the Dixon of Dock Green era of the 1950s and 60s – as an ideal way to provide a more visible presence in the city.

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The boxes would be manned at busy times, allowing members of the public to report crimes and hand in lost property. Beat bobbies would be able to take a tea break or fill out paperwork without returning to the station. The boxes would have to be renovated as they have lain empty for at least 20 years.

One has already been refurbished in the Grassmarket thanks to a city council grant as part of the area's redevelopment.

Police have earmarked five others at busy spots around the city centre and more might be identified in future if the initiative proves popular.

Inspector Gavin Phillip, sector inspector for the West End, who is hoping to secure funding for the project, said: "We are looking at five of the boxes we want to spruce up. In addition to use by police officers, they could also be used by partners such as community safety wardens.

"Over the summer, when the visitor numbers increase, they could be a point of contact for the public. They could be manned at busy times of day. It's a key part of visibility and providing reassurance.

"Obviously things have moved on from when they were last used but they could still be used by officers on the beat. There's very limited space inside the box but there's space for filling in forms or potentially handing in lost property.

"It's still at a very early stage of development but I don't think we would need huge sums of money."

The police boxes date from the 1930s and at their peak in the 1950s and 1960s there were 86 scattered around Edinburgh. Twenty years ago they fell into disuse. In 1995, 33 of them were sold off and many are now run by the Police Box Coffee Company. A total of 21 of them are listed by Historic Scotland.

Old Town community councillor Bill Cowan said many residents and shopkeepers were keen to see them brought back into use.

He said: "I think it's a brilliant idea. It's got great public support. It makes the police more visible, and there's also an element of nostalgia. It's like seeing a policeman on a bicycle."

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