We need more than “Please leave a message…”

Lead_story The cover of this week’s Islington Tribune featured a story that highlights a serious flaw in our Safer Neighbourhoods Police Team’s operation.  It focuses on some structual issues that have underminded the work of the Team members now out on our streets.  If you haven’t read it, I’ve attached a copy  of the article which you can download: Download islington_trib__1_june_07.pdf. The matter was immediately brought to the attention of our local Councillor Paul Convery.  Paul had already seen it and was very concerned.  He’s asked me to share his communication to the other members of the Safer Neighbourhood Panel which he Chairs, and to as many other local residents as possible for their comments as well.  His email is as follows:

Dear Neighbours:

Could I ask for some reactions please to the events of last week? These have been dramatically highlighted on the front page of both the Islington Gazette and Tribune (See attached from the Tribune). Both papers highlight the problem that our neighbourhood is not effectively policed on a full-time basis and the last bank holiday weekend was a dramatic illustration of this.

Anger amongst local traders and residents has reached boiling point following incidents in the last 10 days involving vandalism and aggressive behaviour all around the neighbourhood – and especially on the Bemerton Estate. Gloria Johnson is one of our panel members and she has highlighted the fact that, when the Safer Neighbourhood Team is not rostered, police coverage and response to incidents is plainly unsatisfactory. As the Tribune story emphasises, when the police team are not on duty, we are at the mercy of a centralised response system which does not seem to recognise that anti-social behaviour is a priority. At the very least, this episode underlines the point we have repeatedly made that this area requires more police officers who can be rostered in a pattern that ensures that holidays and weekends are covered and we have more visible policing for longer hours of each day.

You will see from the attached article the astonishing statement by Inspector Jane Johnson (responsible for Safer Neighbourhood policing in the Borough) that "we have no plans to apply for additional funding to increase weekend cover". Why not, I ask? For the last 18 months, the Caledonian Ward Safer Neighbourhood Panel has been asking for additional funding to provide more coverage, so I am staggered that nothing seems to have come of this.

We need a seriously concerted campaign now to demand higher levels of policing. I observe (as neutrally as I can) that the Council and Met Police have offered to jointly fund 1 extra PCSO per ward "to concentrate on youth issues" which will be implemented sometime in the next year or so. I consider this to be an inadequate scale of response and a pretty pointless gesture too – as every single neighbourhood team in Islington is pretty well focussed 100% on youth-related problems.

I think we need to really up the stakes here. I have copied-in our GLA Assembly member Jennette Arnold who is a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority because I think we need suppotr at a rather higher political level if we are to break through the dead-hand bureacracy of the Met Police. Put simply, I think we need to be saying to Mayor Livingstone that neighbourhood policing is excellent and it needs to become the dominant model for 24 hour policing of the Borough. That may require less of some of some other type of policing and, personally, I can think of a few examples.

Stephan Schulte has contacted me and suggested that we insist that Inspector Jane Johnson attends our next Panel meeting on June 21st. This is a very good suggestion – I would like her to explain how she thinks a properly responsive neighbourhood level police service can get a grip on the kind of criminal behaviour that is menacing our neighbourhood.

Paul Convery

I would ask you all to post your comments on this Bulletin Board, so Paul can use them to support our case for more policing.  Please raise your voices on this matter.

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4 Responses to We need more than “Please leave a message…”

  1. patrick & sarah swan says:

    We both attend the Safer Neighbourhood meetings and the consistent refrain is that we need more police. Whilst the Home Office seems focused on international terrorism, we are at the mercy of our own urban form of terrorism and with inadequate support from the police. There is a political issue here which needs to be brought to the attention of our MP and to the Mayor. Votes count and our councillors MP and Mayor Livingstone need to be reminded of it. I think our MP should be asked to attend the next meeting this month, together with Jeanette Arnold and the leader of Islington Council.

  2. Stephan Schulte says:

    Paul,

    I would like to add my voice and request that the Safer Neighbourhood’s Commander come to address the Safer Neighoburhood’s Panel and explain why we can’t, at a minimum, have sufficient police on hand to do the job that is required.

    The original purpose of Community Support Officers was to be able to expand the police presence in the local community. That presence needs to be when the problems are present…not simply during “business hours.”

    In the past several months our neighbourhood has had 14 newly planted trees vandalized. Not during the day, but at night. The large majority of the destroyed trees were along York Way, the main route for the clubbers going to and returning from the clubs in the Goods Way Yards. In the past we have requested some type of presence when these “hundreds” of clubbers were out and about – we were told that the Community Support Team just did not have the manpower to operate during the hours needed.

    Frankly, we know the Team, we know they are dedicated to doing the best job possible – there is just not enough of them. Let’s get the Commander to explain why. Let’s also get our MP involved. Community Safety and the protection of our communal property is a vote winning/losing issue, we need to ensure that everyone knows that!

  3. Gloria Johnson (who was on the front of the Tribune) telephoned me this evening. Superintendent Alan Baldwin called on her at home today. Gloria was pleased, if slightly mystified but she said that Spt Baldwin told her that we won’t have a replacement Sergeant until 1 August.

    Gloria is not on online and was pleased when i told her of the support she was getting from her elected representatives and neighbours.

  4. there is a parallel discussion going on on an email list – with permission of the contributors i submit stephanie and brian’s comments here – william

    We had an incident on Thornhill Square 2 weekends ago, with youths driving dangerously around Thornhill Square on mopeds – putting not only their own lives, but those of others at risk. It is not an infrequent occurence. We called 999 and got through to a recorded message service. After a couple of minutes the call was answered, a few details were taken – no police came to deal with the situation.

    After sending a written complaint to our local community police about this, with full details , the explanation for non attendance which I received was that the police had been changing shifts at that time. Clearly an inadequate response, unless of course any antisocial / criminal activity is now being conveniently co ordinated on a shift basis to coincide with that of the police.

    The explanation for the non-response came very quickly indeed. Nice to know that the communication / explanation skills are strong from our community police. Shame that the reckless endangerment of lives does not always attract the same speed of response from the 999 service. Clearly the 999 service to which we are referred provides a wholly inadequate response ie. in this instance, none at all. Weekends and evenings are when the youth behaviour issues arise, that is what needs to be properly and comprehensively policed. We want a full and proper service to be provided to all residents.

    Stephanie Hartog & Brian Keating

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