Thursday, 31 March 2011

African gangs target Shepherd's Bush as Council cut Police

Crime is rising in Shepherd's Bush and now Arabic and French speaking Met Officers have been drafted in to cope with a spate of robberies being led by criminal gangs with links to a number of countries in North Africa, according to comments made by the Police at the last Shepherd's Bush Green Safer Neighbourhood Team meeting at Shepherd's Bush police station.

A large operation was recently organised involving the Safer Neighbourhood Team, Arabic and French-speaking covert officers, the UK Border Agency and the Met Police Territorial Support Group.  This resulted in five arrests for a variety of offences including possession of a false French ID card, theft of mobile phones, shoplifting and immigration offences.

It's unclear what lies behind the attention being given to our part of London by these gangs but you would think the combination of Westfield, with its ready stream of potential victims, coupled with the fact that a short stroll along Uxbridge Road reveals that a large part of our community themselves are from North Africa means that although this all sounds rather dramatic it's probably local kids using family connections to try and get away with nicking wallets.

However, what is clear is that our Council's cuts are starting to impact on the Police's ability to deal with this problem. I reported here on how the Safer Neighbourhood Teams themselves are at risk and at the same meeting it was revealed that the number of Police Constables patrolling Westfield has been cut from 8 to 5, despite the team making on average 5 arrests per week.

And for our streets themselves the picture is even worse. According to the Police it is likely that PCSO numbers will drop from 15 to 3, Sergeants from 5 to 3 and therefore teams themselves from 5 to 3.  PC’s might increase but Shepherd's Bush ward may no longer have 24/7 cover. 

I say all of this because it's factually true, and I think you need to know - but I would also say that I have quite a lot of respect for the lead Councillor at H&F responsible for crime, Greg Smith, who led the introdcution of Safer Neighbourhood Teams in 2009. He's a bit of a bruiser among his colleagues which is why he was picked to lead the general election campaign of Tory candidate Shaun Bailey in May last year, a campaign which was both nasty and, er, robust at times. What that means for policing is that he is probably the best person you would want in that job, because he's stuck up for his budget as best he can and if crime starts to pick up as a result of these cuts I'd want him to be the one arguing the case for doing something about it with Council Leader Greenhalgh.

But the impact of this cuts meeting at the Town Hall is going to be more far reaching than  maybe even the Councillors themselves fully realised. Look out for your wallet.

5th April UPDATE - The Fulham Chronicle has now caught up with this story here - you know where you read it first, folks


  1. There's always a lot of well-meaning advice on the internet, and on this blog, about what shouldn't be cut. And clearly there are very strong cases for not cutting things like police numbers in an area with rising crime.

    However, it is fairly unarguable that cuts need to be made. Even Ed Miliband admitted on this morning's Today Programme that Labour would also have made multi-billion pound cuts were they in government.

    The most recent budget small print showed that in 2014/15 the UK will be paying £62.4bn annually in debt interest payments. That's more than either the entire department for education budget (£57.3bn) or Justice, Home Office, Transport and Defence combined (£61.6bn). Do we really want to be paying more on interest payments than all those things? Really?

    So, where should these savings come from?

    You might have guessed I personally approve of the cuts but I'd be really interested to hear anyone's thoughts about where in H&F we can actually make savings...

  2. Thanks "T" - you make a number of very valid points and in my defence I do say, as I have done every time I've reported on cuts, that they do have to be made somewhere

    In fact I'd go further than you in criticising Ed Miliband who has singularly failed to outline where any of his cuts would fall, with the exception of yesterday when he said he would have cut 12% from the police instead of 20% which this Government is doing.

    But a local debate about where cuts might fall is unlikely to be welcomed by our own Council who seem to have very clear ideas themselves about what they want to cut and prioritise - so flats above Shepherd's Bush Market and Free Schools are very much "in", while other voluntary sector services and Sure Start centres are very much "out".

  3. You're right - you always do say that cuts have to be made somewhere - apologies.

    I think Miliband and Balls' inability to spell out where they would make their cuts is pathetic and dishonest but that's beside the point.

    It's interesting you are against flats above Shepherds Bush Market. There are definitely very valid aesthetic arguments against building there but economically I think it makes sense.

    More private (even 'luxury') flats in the area would mean more council tax being paid. In addition, it would mean more people in the area spending money with local business with all the knock-on effects that come with such economic activity (more taxes being raised, more money being spent by the owners of those businesses etc).

    On a larger scale, the more such economic growth that can be encouraged in the area, the better. But appreciate not everyone sees it that way...

  4. One thing that's been left out of this is that H&F council is cutting more than even the government thinks is necessary. Eric Pickles slashed 11.3% from the H&F budget and the council added on a further third, bringing it up to a 15% cut. So the problems facing our local policing, Sure Start and the rest are partly due to this avoidable decision by local Conservative councillors, not the national economy.