The front desk at Shepherd's Bush police station is to close, due to cuts being made across the Metropolitan Police Service. While police officers will continue to operate out of the building there will be no public facing service there, with the changes being implemented early in the new year.
This has not been officially made public but I have seen correspondence from Lucy D'Orsi, Commander of this Borough, which has been sent to public officials outlining the changes and the reasons for them. I am not, however, breaking any confidences in reporting this because it was raised publicly in Parliament by Andy Slaughter yesterday with the Home Secretary in exchanges you can read here.
The news comes in the wake of several high profile and particularly nasty crimes in the Bush, notably the murder of Piotr Mikiewicz in September. his murderer eventually walked into a ..... police station to give himself up.
So it looks like Ms D'Orsi will need to bring the public information that will need to surround this change forward, but people should not criticise her or the force. They have to respond to the cuts being made to the service, mainly by our own former Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh, and do the best they can for the community. The sad fact is that that will be less, not more, moving ahead.
In the meantime Mr Slaughter has sent this letter to Ms D'Orsi:
Thank you for letting me know about the proposed closures to police services in the borough. You will understand that this comes as a shock, particularly as you said you were not aware of any changes to police station openings when we met three weeks ago. I am also dismayed that this is all happening so quickly. I have had four working days to comment on the proposal to shut completely Shepherds Bush police station to the public (you ask for a response by Friday 19 November but I assume that means by today).
With other London MPs I met the Commissioner on 6 November. Again there was no mention of closures in Hammersmith & Fulham, and I have to conclude that these are being rushed through to deal with the high level of cuts imposed by the Government and the Mayor. I appreciate that this is not your decision and I will obviously work with the police locally to ensure the community remains as safe as possible, though this will not be helped if, as again is proposed at short notice, we have to share a Borough Commander with another borough.
The current cuts, coming on top of the loss of neighbourhood sergeants, will not be welcomed by the local community. They bear the hallmark of the Deputy Mayor for policing. Hammersmith & Fulham residents will be familiar with his reputation for draconian and badly thought out cuts from his time as Council Leader here.
Specifically, with regards to Shepherds Bush Police Station, I would say as follows:
- Shepherds Bush has the highest levels of crime in the borough. Residents often express concern that there is not a 24-hour service there at present. Total closure of the public reception will increase fears that the police are not immediately available in the area. I note from your statistics that there is a higher level of crime reporting at Shepherds Bush than at Hammersmith.
- You say there are no plans to close Shepherds Bush Police Station as a whole ‘at this stage’. Does that means future closure plans will be considered?
- I am sympathetic to your concern that staffing the front counter with warranted officers could prevent them being on the streets. But why is it necessary to have officers rather than civilian staff on duty? There will always be officers on hand to deal with emergencies, but the ‘triage’ stage could surely be dealt with by trained reception staff?
- I already have concerns about the level of public response at Hammersmith PS and via ‘phone or email. My personal experience and that of constituents is that attending Hammersmith entails long waits and often inconclusive or unsatisfactory responses from staff. Similarly, residents complain that messages left by email of voicemail are not replied to quickly or at all. I emphasise that I am talking about non-emergency service here, but this makes me worried about any loss of public access points.
- I support the greater presence of police in supermarkets and other public places where they can offer reassurance and advice. This is a logical extension of neighbourhood policing, but the occasional visit to other venues cannot be seen as a replacement for police stations themselves.
- You mention greater use of online services and information. Again, this would be welcome and I would like to see greater publication of crime statistics and the activities of the local SNTs and policing operations by this means. But poorer, older and more vulnerable people do not always have internet access and I do not think this can be an alternative to face to face contact in every case.