In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s there was a policeman stationed in the village, initially in John Knox Road, and from the mid 1950s in Wemyss Road. The policeman’s house was known to everyone as the ‘Police Station’, and it was taken for granted that he was Longniddry’s own policeman, responsible for law and order in the village in much the same way as the minister was responsible for religion, and the headmaster for education.
Throughout the period, there were no facilities or arrangements in Longniddry to detain offenders, hold trials, or conduct children’s panel hearings.
Since the late 1960s, concepts of policing have changed and Longniddry relies almost entirely on motorised police patrols based elsewhere. Phone calls to the nearest manned police station at Prestonpans will frequently find no-one present, and calls will have to be directed to Dalkeith, or even police headquarters in Edinburgh. There is currently a community constable resident in Longniddry, but his identity is probably unknown to the vast majority of villagers, and he is certainly not the high profile authority figure that the village policeman was in the post-war years.
There has been little in the way of serious crime in Longniddry during the period in question. However, the bodies of the victims of the ‘World’s End murders’ of 1977 were dumped near Longniddry, one at Gosford Bay, and one between the Coats and Huntington. Crime in the village amounts to occasional outbreaks of burglary or shop-breaking, but this is not the constant problem that it is in less fortunate communities.
It was well known in the 1950s and 1960s that one or two characters haunted the beach as peeping Toms (or ‘pantwatchers’ as the local youths jocularly termed them). Occasional ‘flashers’ also popped up along the beach from time to time, and there was at least one case of sexual assault of a young girl.
All in all, however, the 1950s and 1960s were an age when women and children were assumed to be safe in the village and its surroundings. Farm children walked long distances to school, young mothers with children regularly walked along the shore or in the countryside, older children roamed the countryside on bicycles or on foot, and rapists and paedophiles were the last thing on their minds. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the readiness with which mothers would allow their children to go for ‘hurls’ with the drivers of milk lorries and bread vans. Nowadays the street outside Longniddry Primary School is choked with cars as mothers drive their offspring to school from half-a-mile away, and the thought of their child being driven off on his rounds by the ‘store baker’ would probably induce a state of nervous collapse.
Rowdy teenagers, and the associated unpleasantness of litter, graffiti, drunkenness, loud public swearing and vandalism are felt to be more obvious than they used to be. There has been a spate of particularly mindless vandalism recently. However, although such behaviour
does raise its head more often than it used to, the scale and frequency are negligible compared to what is endured by neighbouring communities. It should be said, too, that often the perpetrators are visitors from these communities – although not as often as Longniddry parents would like to think!