Monday, 19 August 2013

Police cuts: arrest rationing rejected

Shepherd's Bush has reached the dubious honour of being the second highest crime spot in the UK thanks to the Westfield Shopping Centre, and police are struggling to cope. They haven't been helped by the closure of the local police station front counter, and their desperation was there to be seen when a local Sergeant suggested that shops in the centre suffering thefts of less than £50 avoid contacting the police at all.

Westfield isn't the only challenge. We saw in 2011 how the area is being targeted by North African gangs and in 2012 I accompanied them on a drugs bust that was aimed at reclaiming a quiet street, while this raid on a crystal meth factory on the White City Estate revealed some of the hazards they now face as part of their fight to keep us safe.

So the suggestion of letting people thieve led to political condemnation, and rightly so. But was it a condemnation of the cuts that had led to the police struggling in the face of these sorts of challenges? No. It was of the idea itself, the police were "barmy" according to our Council. Here's Cllr Greg Smith speaking to the Standard
"We are pleased that the local police have rejected this barmy idea. Anyone who steals is a criminal – full stop. They will face the full force of the law in our borough."
What seems barmy to me is to cut the police force and close a police station in one of the most heavily hit crime areas in London. The Shepherd’s Bush Safer Neighbourhood Team in 2011 went from 5 sergeants, 15 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and 10 Constables to 2 Sergeants, 6 PCSOs and 18 Constables. So more constables, but less sergeants - a mixed bag when you consider the crucial role of sergeants in planning operations and building long term relationships with the community. 

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