Lothian and Borders Police have successfully reopened three former police boxes in Edinburgh and are poised to order a significant expansion. Ten other forces are now considering reintroducing police boxes, and the scheme is winning support from the home office and the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Until 30 years ago, the large blue boxes were a familiar sight throughout the country. Some even had extensive features for the comfort of beat bobbies, including kettles and heaters.
Most could also be used by members of the public to contact the police in an emergency.
Dan Hewitt, corporate affairs manager for Lothian and Borders Police, said: 'The police boxes have proved a tremendous success with the public and we have plans for an expansion to other sites as and when funds become available'. He said other forces including Leicestershire, Strathclyde, Tayside, Greater Manchester, West Midlands and Merseyside had been in touch and expressed an interest in the scheme.
Edinburgh's fleet of more than 80 police boxes have mostly been sold off over the past decade and many have found new uses either on private premises or even as coffee shops and boutiques.
The new Edinburgh police boxes, which use original but adapted boxes, have far more functions. There is a direct link to the police through a telephone and a display panel giving information, although they could still be used by police officers to summon assistance - the
original role of such boxes. In January a revolutionary interactive computerised-graphic police officer was introduced in the box at Edinburgh's famous Mound. It can answer simple questions such as directions to tourist attractions, give the telephone numbers of local
services and tell people what to do in an emergency.
The box at the Mound has had more than 80,000 'hits' in 16 months since it was reopened and has been nominated for a design Council award.