Tag Archives: safer neighbourhoods

2 million unsolved crimes

When the Met Police introduced its Safer Neighbourhood policing strategy in 2004 I was one of many local councillors who warmly welcomed the initiative. And over the years I could witness its effectiveness in driving down crime. It was replicated by Police forces across the country.

The problem was that Neighbourhood Policing was too successful, so inevitably over time resources were reduced because of low crime rates. Whereas before the teams worked solely on ward issues, today they can be pulled away at any time to deal with issues in the town centre. And guess what happened? – crime levels rose again. You can investigate crime rates in London over time here. (I am focussing on London because it’s what I know, but I am sure similar stories can be told across the UK)

So how did it work? In London each council ward was allocated one police sergeant, supported by two or three other police officers and a couple of PCSOs. Their task was to get to know their patches really well and prevent crime. In particular they focussed on low level crime and anti-social behaviour with the aim of leading perpetrators away from criminal activities.

One example comes to mind. There is a small pocket park in the ward which is completely surrounded by homes, and young people liked to gather there. Trouble began when some of them started throwing stones into back gardens causing some damage. Some of the residents contacted me and asked for a meeting with the police as they felt nothing was being done about it.

So one evening about 30 people crammed into someone’s living room and the police sergeant listened patiently for about an hour while they vented their anger and concerns. The residents were convinced that the problem was caused by a gang from outside the area and that punitive measures were needed.

Once they had all said their piece jaws dropped when the sergeant produced a list of the names and addresses of about 20 young people who had been involved. The police knew exactly who was causing the trouble and they had been quietly dealing with it in a way that would not push the young people further into criminality.

He explained that they all lived in the houses around the park and all had been spoken to.  The older ringleaders had been cautioned. Letters had been sent to the parents of the remaining culprits stating that the police were worried that their children were at risk of getting involved with anti-social groups and asking for their support to divert them.

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