Police are hoping to encourage businesses on Bute to get involved in a new initiative to raise awareness of and tackle disability hate crime.
Police Scotland works in partnership with the I Am Me charity to deliver the Keep Safe initiative across the country. I Am Me works with communities, schools, disability groups and organisations to raise awareness of what disability hate crime is and how incidents can affect both individuals and the wider community.
Locally Argyll and Bute Keep Safe Places aims to help disabled, vulnerable and older people feel confident and safe, with shops, businesses, offices and tourist attractions providing safe places for people if they need help.
Disability hate crime is one of the most under reported crimes in the UK, with an estimated 97 per cent going unreported.
Within Argyll and Bute there are 17 Keep Safe Places. However, there are none on Bute. PC Michelle Rusden, local authority liaison officer for Argyll and Bute, is working to increase the numbers.
She said: “Argyll Community Housing Association are in the process of signing up and will soon be available as a Keep Safe Place at Longhill Crescent, Rothesay.
“The number of Keep Safe premises needs to increase to ensure these areas have a good Keep Safe representation.
“If a person is out and about within Argyll and Bute and has a bad experience, needs help, is a victim of crime, they can access one of the easily identifiable ‘Keep Safe’ places, present a ‘Keep Safe’ card and they can get help from a staff member.
“That help may be just needing reassurance. Or they are a victim of crime and the staff member can contact the police on their behalf.
“Keep Safe’ is helping to make sure that people within the community can live a life they want to live, a life they choose to live, not a life that’s dictated to by other members of society.
“They can go from place to place, shop to shop without any fear of any crime, any harassment or any abuse taking place.”
PC Rusden explained how to sign up for Keep Safe Place.
She said: “In order to become a ‘Keep Safe’ place interested premises have to meet certain criteria which include a minimum number of two staff in place at all times. They must complete a criteria form to allow Police Scotland to undertake background checks.
“Once background checks are complete, then staff from the proposed Keep Safe Place will undergo training.
“After the training, the premises will be issued with a Keep Safe Business Pack and Keep Safe stickers are displayed.”
If you are interested in Keep Safe Places call PC Rusden at Lochgilphead Police Station on 101 for further information and a criteria form.