A RISE in the number of police patrols in Inverness city centre have been given the thumbs-up by business leaders.
Officers spent at least 500 hours – equivalent to more than 20 days – on patrol in the heart of Inverness during September in a bid to tackle a rise in city centre brawls and begging.
A new sergeant for the city centre has also been appointed to oversee the clampdown and business bosses have praised the moves to cope with antisocial behaviour.
Police Scotland confirmed during September there were 248 reported incidents – ranging from minor anti-social behaviour to crimes such as shoplifting – but 83 per cent of these were detected.
Andrea Miola, owner of popular Italian street food store Buonissimo, welcomed the campaign, but said he would like to see more concerted efforts to clean up the streets for good.
The Courier reported last month how a group of teenagers caused trouble outside his High Street premises one Saturday afternoon, but police took more than two hours to respond.
Mr Miola said: "I have noticed a difference in the High Street where I have my business. It has been a little better in the last couple of weeks but the city centre is always full of junkies and drunk people during the day. It is the same faces, the same people.
"It is not the problem of the police, in my opinion. I think it is a problem for Highland Council to resolve."
The increase in patrols followed a series of city centre problems – from tourists being abused on street benches to punch-ups and aggressive begging.
Craig Duncan, who runs McDonald’s in the High Street, heaped praise on police and authorities for the crackdown.
He said: "This is my 11th year in business here and the antisocial behaviour had been getting increasingly worse for the past 10 years. I am over the moon with some of the reports we have heard about and the way the police have handled this.
"It is great to see. There has been a phenomenal response and a lot of business people are really, really encouraged by what they have seen."
Peter Strachan, chairman of Inverness BID, said: "I welcome the significant step up in activity. Businesses have been voicing concern for some time about the level of anti-social behaviour."