HELENSBURGH community councillors have discussed the idea of introducing a ‘neighbourhood watch’ system of alerts in a bid to crack down on criminal activity in the town.

At an open meeting last month, concerns were raised over the recent rise in the number of petty crimes such as vandalism, with vehicles and trees being targeted.

The area’s police inspector, Roddy MacNeill, also spoke of the growing spate of housebreakings and explained that officers are following several positive lines of enquiry to try and track down those responsible.

READ MORE: Police appeal after break-in attempts at Helensburgh store.

However, community councillor Christine Woods suggested that a system of notifications for residents could be more effective in warning people about crime and possibly preventing it.

She said: “I get neighbourhood watch alerts for Argyll and Bute but quite often they are from the Dunoon area. There are none for this area.

“If we knew there had been a robbery then we could talk to each other and inform the community.”

The community councillor then asked Inspector MacNeill: “Is this something you’re in favour of?”

Addressing the community council for the first time since taking up the role, Inspector MacNeill said: “I’ll look into it, definitely, because I know how it works in other areas like West Dunbartonshire.

“I don’t think it was massively expensive to set up and it’s quite a good system.

“It works geographically and everyone signed up in an area would receive a message to say there are bogus workmen in the area, or break-ins, and if you were signed up you would get a ping.”

In a wide-ranging synopsis of his strategy for policing, Inspector MacNeill, who previously covered Dumbarton and Clydebank, described how he plans to implement similar tactics from those areas in Helensburgh.

READ MORE: Helensburgh's new police chief promises "robust approach" to anti-social behaviour.

He told the meeting: “There are no day shift community police in Helensburgh and haven’t been for some considerable time, it’s just response shifts that are here.

“Previously I reintroduced town centre cops to Dumbarton and Alexandria while I was there and I am trying to do the same here, because they are a deterrent.

“There are no vacancies at Helensburgh but there are vacancies potentially elsewhere that can be moved to Helensburgh.

“We’re looking at trying to move some vacancies to this area for cops on a day shift to be in the town, because we don’t have a visual presence there and we need to have one.

“We’ve already introduced weekly plain clothes patrols, which means you won’t see the cops hopefully, but with a view to addressing disorder.

“We have a new intelligence officer based in Helensburgh to develop what we are getting in to try and disrupt and deter folk who want to be involved in any kind of criminality.”

READ MORE: Police probe vandalism after car tyres are slashed.

When questioned on what police can do to tackle cyber-crime and online scams, inspector MacNeill replied: “It’s difficult, if not impossible, because there are some very clever people and many of it comes from abroad, so it’s hard to trace. But there’s lots of tools we can use.”

He added: “The main topic we’ve got at the moment is actually housebreaking. It is unusually high just now in this area and they are professional criminals.

“Youth disorder is pretty constant here, and the number of cars getting vandalised in Helensburgh just now is as high as I’ve seen, even over in Dumbarton and Clydebank.

“We do need to prioritise. I do not have an endless flow of cops.

“Resources here are healthy for where we cover and the call volume is not as high as other areas I’ve worked in so it’s in line with what we have to deal with.

“The main thing that I am trying to do with our officers in Helensburgh is increase our activity and proactivity to try and prevent rather than keep chasing.”