Controversy over 24/7 Safer Neighbourhoods Policing Trial

Opposition claim scheme means fewer police for central Hammersmith

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A row has broken out over plans to introduce a new team of police officers to town centres in the Borough. The opposition are claiming that due to lack of planning the move will require a reduction of policing in Hammersmith with resources being transferred to Shepherd's Bush and Fulham.

A team of more than 30 hand-picked beat officers will start patrolling the streets of Fulham Broadway and Shepherd's Bush Green providing high visibility policing to clamp down on anti-social behaviour, crime and disorder.

The new team will be unveiled this Saturday 24 March at a Crime Summit in Hammersmith Town Hall.
"Hammersmith & Fulham has a 24/7 economy with 24/7 criminals to match," says Councillor Greg Smith, H&F Council cabinet member for crime and architect of the scheme. "Residents want protection and they want it round the clock and now, working with the Met, we are the first council in the UK to provide police with funding to put local patrols on the streets, day and night, every day of the year."

However, Cllr. Stephen Cowan, leader of the local Labour Group says that the move requires 25% of the policing resources of central Hammersmith to be transferred to support the new scheme. He said that Hammersmith Broadway has the highest rates of crime in the borough and the previous Labour Administration had introduced the twelve strong force to tackle the many problems in the area. Last month, Hammersmith Today reported the Conservative Administration had voted down Labour’s plans to give the five wards with the highest crime 24/7 Police Task Squads. Hammersmith Broadway ward runs along the river, from the Fulham Palace Road, up Hammersmith Grove and covers Kings Street and most of Brackenbury Village.

The decision to cut police in Hammersmith follows allegations of chaos from the Labour opposition who claimed that the Council had failed to undertake any detailed planning around their new policing scheme, with objectives, success criteria and financial future all still to be agreed.

Michael Wallace from the Oswald Stoll Mansions Residents' Association in Fulham is in favour of the scheme saying, "We get a lot of problems around here in the early hours of the morning. Some people are frightened to leave their homes because of the gangs and drunks around the place. Hopefully the 24/7 neighbourhood policing will stop the rowdiness."

On the other hand, local resident Toni Raybould, aged 73, said “I’m the coordinator of the Neighbourhood Watch for the area. I feel very let down by this new Council. They said they’d give us more police prior to the election, not 25% less which is what we now have. Sgt Goulden and his team are really effective. They have closed down crack houses, got to know local people so they pick up what’s happening in the area and last year robberies fell by 33%. I think most people will be outraged when they find out.

Ward Councillor Stephen Cowan added, “All research shows that there is correlation between increasing police numbers and reducing crime. The ratio of success can be further improved with proper planning. The opposite is also true and crime rises if police numbers are cut. The Tories have described their own plans as a bit of a “gamble” and a “test”. It hardly inspires confidence. This policing cut is the complete opposite to what the Conservatives said they would do prior to the elections last May.

H&F Council say they are pumping in £1.5 million over two years to pay for the patrols in the two town centres. Each team will have a dedicated and accountable police inspector managing five sergeants, 10 police constables and 15 police community support officers.

Borough Commander Heather Valentine, who has been given the job of making the scheme work on the ground, says, "I am relishing this unique opportunity to trial 24/7 community-based policing. "I am looking forward to turning the vision of round the clock Safer Neighbourhood policing into a reality."

The scheme will be closely watched by other councils as well as Whitehall. Councillor Smith concludes, "Residents are now getting a more visible, local uniformed presence 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - just like they have in New York and Chicago. This is a genuinely groundbreaking approach to crime and anti-social behaviour in London."

Guests including Nick Herbert MP, Shadow Minister for Police Reform, will be speaking at the Crime Summit.

March 23, 2007