On 9 January, MOPAC (the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime) published a draft consultation on the capital’s Police and Crime Plan 2013-17.
At the same time the draft MOPAC/Metropolitan Police Service Estates Strategy 2013-16 was published. The documents are still available here.
The proposals contained in each warrant close examination as they stand to impact on policing in the Borough if implemented.
The draft MOPAC/MPS Estate Strategy proposes the closure of Thamesmead, Woolwich and Greenwich police stations along with a substantial reduction in hours in Eltham. While it is difficult to predict precisely how these proposals will affect Greenwich, given that the MPS did not publish plans for how public access to services will be maintained should they be adopted, there are grounds for concern.
First, the plans appear to have been developed without any real consideration of the needs of specific local areas such as Greenwich Town Centre with its large tourist footfall or the impact that a loss of ‘front counter’ services has in terms of a reassuring presence for local residents and visitors.
Second, while there may be a case for efficiency savings if buildings are not extensively used by the public, the consultation did not take into account the other functions provided by buildings such as Greenwich police station in providing a base for our ward Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT).
Third, the proposals run counter to the Mayor’s prior reassurances on the issue. The Mayor of London had previously promised Londoners that front counter services would not be closed unless an alternative or like-for-like provision was found (like-for-like meaning the same or better opening hours and a face to face service – see Mayor’s Question Time 21 November 2012 and London Assembly Police and Crime Committee 27 September 2012). But the draft strategy has rowed back on this pledge, instead proposing “contact points” at Post Offices, supermarkets and coffee shops. It is not at all clear how such services will function in the event they are adopted as they are uncosted plans and no agreements with potential outlets are in place.
Safer Neighbourhood Teams
Far more concerning are the proposals contained in the draft consultation on the Police and Crime Plan 2013-17, particularly in regards to local policing in Greenwich and other parts of the capital.
Over recent years our local SNT has carried out invaluable work in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in West Greenwich and in providing a reassuring presence for local residents. The model of Safer Neighbourhood community policing on which this progress has rested, which until now has been protected in the Borough, is now under threat.
This is because the draft MOPAC consultation proposes to strip back the current SNT model of 1 Sergeant, 2 Police Constables and 3 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to just a single PC and a single PSO per ward and a named but not dedicated Sergeant. These proposals are extremely worrying (and are not allayed by the proposed overall increase in numbers at a sector level) as they would undoubtedly have a negative impact on the number of officers on our streets, the ability of local police to respond to complaints of anti-social behaviour (our local team is uniquely suited to tackling ASB given their understanding of the local area and their partnerships with community groups, councillors and residents) and on the relationship built up between local police teams and the communities they are now firmly embedded within.
These planned cuts will see the Met having the lowest supervisory ratios in the country, lower than our closest comparators around the country, stretching local sergeants and the local knowledge that has been the bedrock of local policing.
We can only hope that the Mayor of London listens to the views expressed by Greenwich Councillors, local community groups and residents before coming to a final decision on these proposals.