Valuing community policing

19 Jun

PCSO

This evening I attended the regular Kilburn Safer Neighbourhood police team (SNT) meeting with the local community.  As usual, the police officers who were ring-fenced to policing our ward reported to residents on their work to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the area.

Local people from the estates and streets in Kilburn asked questions and shared information.  Officers from Camden Council’s community safety and housing departments engaged in the discussion and have a crucial part to play in working with the police and the community.  This was a local, accountable public service working in practice.

So I was very sorry to hear that, from next Monday, the SNT dedicated to Kilburn ward will be cut from seven officers to three.  Instead, a group of officers will form a new so-called ‘neighbourhood police team’, which will cover a much larger, diverse area from Kilburn to Highgate.  The future role of ward-based SNT meetings is unclear. To his credit, the Kilburn ward SNT Chair John Kilvington said he will continue to organise community meetings, although it seems we will no longer be able to set priorities for our slimmed down SNT.

Despite the attempted re-branding of ‘neighbourhoods’ by the Met, it will be impossible for officers covering such a large area to build strong relationships with local people.  As a result, they will be slower to pick up on intelligence about, for example, signs of drug dealing on estates, or about young people who are going off the rails.

This is a huge change and, in my view, it is likely to undermine the very concept of community policing.  SNTs have had a positive impact, not only in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, but also in building community confidence in their local police service.  I may be an active Liberal Democrat, but I have long felt that ward-based safer neighbourhood policing was one of the best innovations of the previous Labour Government.  It’s bad enough that the Tory Mayor is dismantling the SNT model – it’s even worse that he doesn’t even appear to appreciate the value of community policing.

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