How thinly can you spread neighbourhood policing?

The Metropolitan Police Authority is in session and the DCiC* and PSPCC**, Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM, is in the Chair.  And the expected row about the future of neighbourhood policing in London has just petered out.

New readers might want to check out Pippa Crerar in the Evening Standard to get the context, but the story is pretty simple: Mayor Boris Johnson and the PSPCC have been very vague for the last two years about whether they were really committed to maintaining the current structure of safer neighbourhood teams created by former Mayor Ken Livingstone; but this week one Borough Commander has written to local councillors telling them that the number of officers in the safer neighbourhood teams in his patch might be reduced and that they would work “more flexibly” rather than remaining dedicated to particular neighbourhoods; and more or less simultaneously and this coincided with a statement from the PSPCC and the real Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, stating that every neighbourhood would continue to have named officers responsible for tackling local crime but adding ominously:

“Currently the teams are dedicated to ward boundaries, which we want to ensure continues to meet your and the public’s local needs. We also want to ensure the structure of the teams, and how they are supervised, makes the best use of skills and resources so that we can meet local demand effectively.”

A cynic (actually, it was me) pointed out that every neighbourhood having named officers is not the same as a neighbourhood team – indeed Sir Paul and his Deputy, Tim Godwin, could arguably be named as the officers responsible for tackling local crime in every ward in London.

The Commissioner assured the meeting that “no decisions have been taken”, despite the letters going out from Borough Commanders implying the opposite.  This prompted Dee Doocey AM to make the accusation “you are trying to con us” (which she then withdrew on being told she was being “unparliamentary” – she is allegedly on a list of possible new LibDem peers).

The Commissioner couldn’t yet give assurances that the total number of officers and PCSOs  engaged in Safer Neighbourhood Teams would remain uncut, but he expressed a personal preference for retaining links to local government ward boundaries.  And he did promise that officers would still be “dedicated” to local areas – without a commitment on how many and what the areas would finally be.   As to fairness between areas (ie every ward receiving the same allocation of Safer Neighbourhood resources), he acknowledged that this had been the basis on which the Safer Neighbourhood Teams had been established but did warn that there was debate on what this might mean in the future.

This debate is not yet over ……


**Putative Surrogate Policing and Crime Commissioner

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