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'A safe place to stay and live'

14 May 07 12:55 GMT
By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Your first day at work is usually quite a traumatic experience.

There are always understandable nerves and uncertainties about finding yourself in new surroundings.

Now imagine somebody asked you to give a short talk outlining your aims and ambitions for the post to a pack of waiting journalists.

Not exactly an easy introduction to the job but one which Pat Shearer, Dumfries and Galloway's new chief constable, appeared to take in his stride.

"I am delighted to be here," he said.

"It is my first post as chief constable and it is a great opportunity and a great challenge."

Mr Shearer was selected to take over from David Strang less than a month ago.

However, he said he was keen to finalise his move from Grampian as soon as possible after the local council elections.

"In some ways it has been a very quick process for me - the interviews were just three weeks ago," said Mr Shearer.

"But seeing some of the opportunities that were out there I felt it was important not to come late to the party.

"I wouldn't have wanted to come another two months down the line."

Mr Shearer revealed that he has already started to feel at home in his new surroundings.

"I was born and brought up in Moray so that was similar to the environment and culture around here," he said.

"When you walk up the street - whether you know people or not - they acknowledge you.

"It is good to get back into that sort of environment."

The new chief constable knows that there are special challenges facing the Dumfries and Galloway force.

"It operates in what I see as one of the safest places in the UK and I want to maintain and improve on that," he said.

Mr Shearer said his first task would be to "listen and learn" and not jump in to make change for change's sake.

He did recognise, however, that there were some key issues for the area.

"Road casualties are a significant concern for the force," he said.

"It is not one that is unique to Dumfries and Galloway - it was very important in my past area."

The new chief constable said part of addressing that problem had to be better education of drivers.

"Roads can always be improved but they will take a long time to improve," he said.

He said that speeding, not wearing seatbelts and driving while drunk or using a mobile phone were issues that could be tackled.

House hunting

Other concerns he flagged up for the area were child protection and drug dealing.

Nonetheless, Mr Shearer was quick to point out that the region is not as badly affected by crime as other parts of the country.

So much so that he has already started his own house hunting in the area.

"I think the message is that Dumfries and Galloway is a very safe place to stay and live in," said Mr Shearer.

Indeed, his greatest danger - on his first day of work at least - seemed to be the risk of being struck by a stray television camera or radio microphone.

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