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LymingtonRoad_eviction1

Heavy police presence at Lymington Road eviction protest

Police broke up an eviction protest on Thursday afternoon in Lymington Road at which fourteen arrests were made.

Eviction Protest poster

Photo via Alexander Blake-Pink

According to protestors, the evicted tenant, whose name is given only as Mark, had been ordered by the landlord to vacate the room he was renting at 1 Lymington Road after it had been ruled too small to live in by a council inspector.

Supporters of the tenant claim that he has mental health issues, did not want to leave the property and had nowhere else to go. He was apparently taken to Camden Housing Services.

Members of the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group (KUWG) linked arms around the property and erected a banner above the front door.

There was a heavy police presence, with around 40 officers on the scene plus an ambulance, which according to the KUWG’s website had been called after the “heavy-handed” arrest of one of the campaigners.

LymingtonRoad_eviction1

However, a police spokesperson described their actions as a “proportionate response”.

For a bit more detail, background and some more photos and videos:
Scoop It
Kate Belgrave
Demotix

SgtHuttonBanner

Tweets from the beat: West Hampstead Sergeant joins Twitter

The police seem to have an uneasy relationship with Twitter. While accounts such as @MPSInTheSky attract legions of followers and brilliantly balance updates on activity with behind-the-scenes insights, the borough level accounts are a bit more hit and miss. Brent’s account is fairly active, for example, but Camden seems to have chosen to tread a much more cautious path.

Here in West Hampstead, we had an early adopter in the brilliant @WHLocalPlod with her Juliet Bravo avatar (cultural reference for the grown-ups there), but this was always an unofficial account, even though it was run with the utmost professionalism and integrity. Once she left the Met, there was a gap to be filled.

A year later and Sgt. Ian Hutton, the new(ish) Safer Neighbourhood Sergeant for West Hampstead & Fortune Green, today announced his official Twitter account: MPS_WHampstdSgt. He is one of a growing number of Safer Neighbourhood officers on Twitter – all with sanctioned accounts.

Sgt Ian Hutton

Sgt Ian Hutton

Getting on Twitter makes a lot of sense from the police’s point of view. It’s a good way of rapidly interacting with the public, especially with so many amplifier accounts out there who can ensure that public information news is disseminated quickly.

Of course, all police accounts emphasise that they are not to be used to report crime. This is pretty much common sense. In an emergency, call 999; if it’s not an emergecy, dial 101.

West Hampstead Life wishes Sgt Hutton the best of luck with his account. These are testing times for the police, but engaging with the public using the very channels that the public uses itself can only be a good thing. Inevitably they’ll cop some flak, and it’s always easier to abuse someone from the safety of an anonymous account than it is face-to-face. Nevertheless, if we want the police to be more accountable and approachable, getting them using Twitter is a good thing in my book.

I hope that the MPS Camden account itself is able to step up and deliver the same sort of service. As I write, at 10.20pm on January 9th, the account hasn’t tweeted since January 2nd.

FatalityWillesden

Police chase has fatal conclusion

The first reports on Twitter were of a trespasser on the tracks, causing delays to the Metropolitan Line and then the Jubilee Line, and then services out of Marylebone, which all indicated it was around this part of London. Add in police helicopters over Kilburn and it seemed clear that something major had happened.

Around 4.30pm, police officers stopped a man in Christchurch Avenue, Willesden Green who they believed him to be in possession of drugs. The man broke away from the two officers and escaped on foot. Both officers followed on foot.

The man was pursued and observed from a distance for around 40 minutes, during which time he was seen to run into gardens, climb over fences and go onto railway lines.

At 5.12pm, the man was hit by a train on the line near Dartmouth Road, Willesden. The man, believed to be in his 20s, was pronounced dead at the scene. Officers await formal identification and confirmation that next of kin have been informed. A post-mortem examination will be arranged in due course.

Camden police neighbourhoods

‘ello ‘ello What’s going on here?

The saga of the local police stations has dragged on a while but we do at last have some clarity now that the Local Policing Model has been finalised. It came into effect last week.

There’s been much publicity over the closure of Hampstead police station but less clarity over what was happening this side of the Finchley Road.

The answer is that West Hampstead police station (that’s the one on Fortune Green Road) will remain open as a deployment centre and the police horses will be staying.

The much-talked about “contact points” for our area will be at the police station (this is a change from what was expected) and at the Safer Neighbourhoods Base on West End Lane opposite the junction with Broadhurst Gardens. They will be open Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 7-8pm and Saturday afternoons from 2-3pm. These hours will be the same for all contact centres across London apparently! These contact points are “for non-urgent face-to-face contact, where the public can meet their local police at regular known times.” We should feel pretty special to have two contact points so close together. Across Camden, there are only three others – one of which is at the Swiss Cottage SNT base near the tube station.

Camden will have two (yes, just two) full-time front counters: Kentish Town police station will be open 24 hours a day, while Holborn will be open 8am-8pm weekdays and 10am-6pm on Saturday. Crimefighting takes a rest on Sunday. Over the border in Brent, Kilburn police station (that’s the one in Queen’s Park) will have a full-time front counter and Walm Lane in Willesden Green will be a contact point.

Back to Camden – the borough has been divided into three “neighbourhoods”: North, Central and South. Big neighbourhoods.Each Neighbourhood will also have an “appointment car”, with 30 slots available every day of the week. It’s not clear how these will work.

The three “neighbourhoods” of Camden

In terms of police numbers, each neighbourhood is headed by an inspector. In our case (we’re “North”) that’s Nikki Babb. West Hampstead & Fortune Green wards will share a sergeant, as they have for some time. Right now, that’s Ian Hutton. Then each ward has a dedicated PC and PCSO. There are an additional five teams of seven officers, each lead by one sergeant, who will be deployed across the seven wards that comprise the North “neighbourhood”.

BTPlogo

Police trying to identify man hit by train in West Hampstead

Unapologetically re-publishing a press release here from British Transport police. Please read and think whether you know, or may have seen this man in West Hampstead that evening.

British Transport Police (BTP) detectives are appealing for the public’s help to identify a man who was struck by a train at West Hampstead earlier this week.

BTP officers were called to the station on Tuesday, 28 May following a report that a man had been struck by a London St Pancras to Derby train service at the station.

Metropolitan Police officers also attended the incident, which was reported to BTP at 9.40pm and is currently being treated as non-suspicious. Sadly the man was pronounced dead at the scene by medics from London Ambulance Service.

Detective Constable Terry Hancocks, of BTP, said: “Investigators have carried out extensive enquiries into identifying the man, but unfortunately have so far been unable to do so.

“Forensic analysis is currently ongoing however police are keen to hear from anyone who believes they may know this man or who has any information about the incident.

“This man is someone’s son and he may also be a brother, father or an uncle. It is imperative that we identify him as soon as possible, and help bring closure to his family.”

The man is described as white and in his fifties. He was wearing a Barbour jacket, Blue Harbour size 38 jeans and Karrimor size 12 trainers. He had a bald head, clean shaved and was wearing glasses.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 quoting background reference B8/LNA of 30/05/2013. Information can also be passed to the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

simon_marcus

Tory candidate explains police station position

I received an e-mail yesterday from Hampstead ward councillor and Conservative PPC Simon Marcus about the closure of West Hampstead and Hampstead police stations. Simon, you’ll recall, when asked in an interview with the Ham & High about the area losing its police stations, said, “I think what people want is to see someone in that situation who is getting a result, and, as you know, what I’m trying to do in this difficult situation is get a result. People do not want empty promises and big ideals.”

Cllr Simon Marcus

Whether the difficult situation refers to the budget crisis facing central and local government, or the fact that it’s a Conservative mayor that’s driving through the cuts to emergency services wasn’t clear.

Simon continued, “What I’m fighting for is to replace those police stations with a base.”

In light of all this, here’s the mail I – and presumably many of you – received yesterday

Dear residents,

I am writing a report to be sent to Mayor Boris Johnson in response to the proposed closures of Hampstead and West Hampstead Police Stations.

As part of this report I need evidence to show how important it is that a police base is retained on these sites.

Many residents have mentioned that they no longer report crime in some circumstances. This may be because local police stations are sometimes closed, or for other reasons. However it is really important to gather evidence in order to measure the extent of unreported crime and its nature as this problem could become even more serious if we loose [sic] a police base in the area.

I would be extremely grateful if you could fill out this quick survey. To open and complete the survey, click on the following link http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BMDPRNC

It will take less than a minute or two and may help us keep a police presence in Hampstead!

Thank you,

Cllr Simon Marcus
Hampstead Town Ward
London Borough of Camden

It wasn’t obvious to me from this whether Simon wants to retain a police base in the existing station, or replace the stations with a base somewhere else. The answer, it turns out, lies somewhere between the two.

“I just don’t think we can save these police stations,” he said. “If the buildings are sold they must only go to a developer that will put in a smaller new police base on the sites at no cost to the taxpayer. In Hampstead, this could be a Safer Neighbourhoods base as well as a community centre. In West Hampstead, it might sit alongside a childcare centre.”

There is of course already a Safer Neighbourhood base in West Hampstead. Why that couldn’t be used as a (part time) front counter for the area remains unclear. Simon agreed that finding the simple solutions and taking them to City Hall was necessary. “We’ve got to go to them,” he said.

In the interim period between closing the police stations and these new developments opening up, which Simon admits could be a couple of years, he says that he’s already been discussing with Camden the possibility of using existing council premises to house temporary police counters.

In the meantime, he’s keen to gather evidence from locals on the levels of unreported crime to underpin the report he wants to deliver to Boris. He vehemently holds the line that his survey is not political and that he’s simply collecting the facts.

Simon’s going to face a conundrum, however. If the evidence shows that crime is under reported when there are police stations, that implies a) the presence of a front counter has nothing to do with crime reporting rates, or b) the front counter service is already inadequate. Yet having admitted that the closure of the stations is inevitable, this leaves Simon in a tricky spot.

There’s also a crucial question missing from the survey: “If you have reported crime in the past year how did you report it?”. Even if the survey shows that everyone is reporting all the crime, then unless we know how it’s being reported there’s not a lot we can do with that knowledge. If 100% of crime is reported via the telephone – to take the extreme scenario – then there’s very little need for any form of front counter. It doesn’t matter what percentage of people say they’ve been a victim of crime and reported it, it’s impossible to derive a meaningful implication for front counter service.

None of which should take away from the fact that it’s a good idea to collect some facts. I get the sense the closure in Hampstead is far more emotive than it is in West Hampstead. When the issue came up at last week’s Area Action Group there wasn’t as much grumbling as one might imagine – the fate of the police horses seemed to give more cause for concern (their destiny is yet to be decided). If the police station was an attractive listed building in the heart of West Hampstead, perhaps locals would have a different view.

Police station closure moves closer

As was widely expected – and reported in these pages back in November – West Hampstead police station is indeed set for closure.

This week, the draft consultation document was released that outlines which of London’s police stations will be shut. The document originates from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. This body runs the “estate” of the Met, i.e., the bricks and mortar.

The Estate Strategy (2012-2016) is “To deliver a more efficient and higher quality estate which meets the operational needs of the MPS and is significantly lower in cost to run.” The actual numbers are a 32 percent drop from £205 million in March this year to £140 million by April 2016. You’ll recall that the total cut to the Met’s budget is £500 million, so this £65 million is a relatively small part of that.

In “financial and space terms” (ie, “this means”) the Met will need to:

  • Enhance the opportunities for members of the public to meet with the police providing suitable access facilities in buildings that are already within the estate or local civic facilities, whilst also raising the profile of public facing properties through consistent standards of signage and corporate ‘look and feel’. [Yeeush. This is the “coffee shop police counters” bit]
  • Reduce the running costs of the MOPAC estate to £140m each year by 2015/16 – a 30% reduction on 2012 costs. [This is the “sell off the buildings” bit]
  • Reduce the amount of space occupied by 300,000 sq m by 2015/16. [see above]
  • Provide up to 950 modern cells, reducing the cost of the custody estate, and providing suitable facilities to support the reduction in the time it takes for a detainee being taken into custody to be processed. [This is the “centralise detention” bit]
  • To reduce the amount of residential accommodation owned by MOPAC to no more than 200 units whilst working with Residential Providers to provide affordable accommodation to officers and staff close to where they work. [This is the “force police officers to spend more time finding affordable accommodation” bit]

I’ve already discussed some of the broad principles here, but the core of the strategy as it relates to police stations is:

The Commissioner and the Mayor have committed to providing one 24 hour police station in each Borough and to not shutting any police station until there is a suitable alternative provision where the public can meet the police.

Camden’s 24hr station will be Holborn, Brent’s will be Wembley. Camden will also keep Kentish Town station open, although it will shift from being a 24hr station to a daytime station. West Hampstead, Albany Street and Hampstead stations will all close. Quite where the “suitable alternative provision” will be is not clear, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

It is debatable whether the closure of the front counter will have a major impact on most people. It’s not as if police officers are sitting at their desks waiting for someone to call 999 so they can jump in a car and hurtle to the scene of the crime. The impact of the larger cuts is likely to come more in the allocation of police resources across the regular officers, safer neighbourhood teams, and PCSOs rather than to the buildings.

We’re not in Dock Green any more

Skinny latte and a search warrant please
Back to those contact points. For those times when someone does want to walk into a police station, where will they go? Much of the press has gone big on the “coffeeshop coppers” angle, but are the police really going to use Starbucks and Costa as temporary front counters? Here’s what the consultation document says:

Many public sector organisations are now exploring opportunities to share the publicly owned/occupied estate. This not only reduces costs but creates a more engaging and vibrant use of facilities – it creates a more friendly face. 

Last time I looked, Starbucks in particular was not a “public sector organisation”. The document continues:

The MPS has recognised the need to enable the public to contact the police through a variety of different channels… The MPS describe this as ‘The Public Access Promise’. Since 2008, there has been a 20% reduction in crime reporting at front counters and a 32% increase in internet and email reporting. The Commissioner, for example, has committed that all victims of crime will be visited by a police officer if they wish rather than having to visit a police station – this benefits victims but also has a consequential effect on the need for police estate.

There’s no doubt that a Dixon of Dock Green style bobby waiting behind a front desk is both antiquated and probably largely (though not necessarily entirely) redundant. If Caroline Pigeon is right and one in four rapes are reported at front desks, then it would be interesting to know why that is so high. Surely, whatever the reason someone goes to a police station (voluntarily) they should have the right to a private room to explain their situation. That’s hard to find in a Costa, or outside a Sainsbury’s.

Not that the report appears to rule out completely working with the private sector (my emphasis):

As part of this estate strategy, MOPAC will further develop our relationships with other public sector bodies as well as private and third sector organisations specifically to find routes for the public to access the police in areas where they could access many other services.

Where might these places realistically be for us? The library is an obvious option. Perhaps the churches – St James’s is certainly looking to expand its role in the community. The foyer of the O2 centre is a regular spot for the Safer Neighbourhood roadshows, but could that replace a front counter?

The Public Access Strategy, which is being developed by the MPS, has highlighted that a number of front counters are underused. Once the strategy has been approved, following consultation initiatives, and the list finalised, those front counters will be replaced through the provision of ‘Contact Points’. The Contact Points will be in existing MPS and shared public buildings.

The pertinent question is then whether “shared public buildings” mean buildings owned by the public sector (libraries, sports centres) or buildings open to the public (shopping malls, cinemas etc.).

What I can’t understand is why Camden is apparently ruling out using the Safer Neighbourhood Base on West End Lane as a contact point? It’s an existing MPS building, it only needs to be manned whenever another contact point would be manned and the cost of making it accessible to the public would surely be fairly small – officers would have more resources on hand to deal with basic queries, there’s more privacy for members of the public, and even if a flat white was beyond officers’ ability I’m sure they could manage a milky Nescafé.

Will no-one think of the horses?
West Hampstead police station also houses some of the Met’s horses. It sounds as if their fate has yet to be decided:

The primary focus for the estate strategy is for the welfare of the animals and their proximity to where they are likely to be deployed. A review of this portfolio will be undertaken to assess the suitability of each property and location with the aim, if possible, to rationalise the number of buildings. Key Target: Opportunities will be considered for rationalising space into modern efficient facilities – delivering running cost savings of £0.5m each year.  

That’s from a total budget of £2.4m. Police horses are used at large events of course, so proximity to Wembley might help keep the horses here – perhaps we’ll get more. Having lost the Kings Troop last year, it would be a shame to lose the police horses too, for no other reason than the character they add. And the opportunity for photos like this one taken by Adam Wilson last May.

“Shocking images in West Hampstead as horse
eats policewoman’s head as she withdraws cash”

Can CCTV images help solve fatal crash puzzle

Today, police released three CCTV images from the night of November 10th. That was the Saturday of the car crash that killed Desreen Brooks and severely injured Amy Werner.

Police believe these are all vital witnesses in their attempt to find out exactly what happened at about 8.30pm that night.

The first is a moped rider who was heading southbound on West End Lane before doing a u-turn and riding in the direction of Finchley Road. It could be a fast food delivery moped, so if you’re a local business that uses delivery people, do look closely to see if you know this person.

Second, police want to speak to the driver of this silver BMW that stopped opposite the Overground station.

Finally, police also wish to speak to this man waiting outside the Overground station. He looks like he’s checking his phone.

Anyone with information should call the Road Death Investigation Unit on 0208 842 1817.

Goldhurst Terrace assault: man arrested

[updated 2.15pm]

Following heavy twitter activity about a major police incident on Goldhurst Terrace yesterday afternoon, it transpires that an 18-year-old German man has been arrested in connection with an unprovoked assault on a 60-year-old man who was found unconscious and is still in a critical condition in hospital. The German may have mental health problems, apparently. He grabbed the pram that is now cordoned off at Kings Gardens and walked up Acol Road in order to avoid being spotted, but was then arrested at Kings Gardens.

There are police cordons around parts of Kings Gardens as well as on Acol Road where the nursery is closed off. Aberdare Gardens, Priory Road and Woodchurch Road were also cordoned off at times and police are still preventing some Goldhurst Terrace residents from entering their homes.

Swiss Cottage ward councillor Don Williams
tweeted this photo of Goldhurst Terrace earlier today

Anyone with information or who witnessed the assault is asked to call Camden Police on 101; if you wish to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Could West Hampstead police station close?

West Hampstead police station looks certain to lose its front counter, but the murmurings that the whole station is under threat are getting louder.

The Metropolitan Police has engaged in a strange consultation process regarding front counter closures. It can, at best, be described as cursory. A cynic might even interpret it as underhand. “Priority stakeholders” were the only people due to be consulted. Andrew Dismore, the London Assembly Member for Barnet & Camden, is one of these people but, for some reason, it took the borough police a week to find his e-mail address to inform him of the consultation. By that time there were only four days left for him to respond. Even if he had received it in time, it still seems a staggeringly short period of consultation. And why was it so hard for the police to find the e-mail address of an elected representative? (Here’s a hint for them next time).

Andrew Dismore

We all know that public services are being cut back far and wide, and the Met is certainly not exempt. The consultation document (which is a strange two-pager that’s heavy on rationale but light on solutions) explains that the force’s budget need to drop by an eye-watering half a billion pounds by 2015. That isn’t just a lot of money, it’s also a huge chunk of 2011/12’s £2.7 billion budget.

There are 136 police front counters across London, although the consultation paper says that more than a quarter have less than one visitor per hour. Fewer than 50 crimes a night are reported at front counters between 11pm and 7am, and 23 of the 24-hour stations see less than one crime reported every three nights. “They are now primarily staffed by police officers, simply waiting for the public to come to them,” says the paper.

The Met is keen to point out that “This is not about reducing our service but expanding, adapting and changing it for a more modern approach.” I do wonder why it’s not possible for those police officers drumming their fingers on the front desk to perhaps be doing something else while they wait, and maybe someone has to ring a doorbell to be let in, so there’s a drop-in service, but the desk doesn’t have to actually be manned permanently. Surely multi-tasking is possible. (I don’t believe for a minute that police officers aren’t already doing something while they sit and wait).

At Mayor’s Question Time this week, Boris came under sustained fire from Assembly Members, notably Labour’s Dismore and the Lib Dems’ Caroline Pidgeon, who said that 1 in 4 rapes were reported at front counters and was it really reasonable to expect people to report these and other serious crimes in coffee shops. For the consensus is that this is Boris’s big idea: relocate police counters to more accessible locations such as shopping centres. This good ITV news report even moots our very own O2 centre as a possible location as well as showing the Mayor’s response to the questions – he accuses Dismore of “fetishising bricks and mortar”, and says that coffee shops are indeed one avenue that might be pursued.

The grand plan foresees the number of locations where the public can contact the police in person rise from 136 today to up to 270 locations in 2015. In total, 65 front counters will be replaced by more than 200 “Contact Points”, of which seven will be in Camden.

Hampstead police station has already been slated for closure and despite a vocal campaign up in NW3 it’s hard to see that it will be reprieved. Although the consultation document doesn’t expressly mention West Hampstead (in fact the only station named is Holborn which will be the borough’s only 24/7 station), Camden police told Dismore directly:

“The proposals under consultation for Camden are for Holborn front counter to remain open 24 hours and for Kentish Town to be open 40 hour per week. Albany Street, Hampstead and West Hampstead front counters will close and we are looking to create 7 Contact Points across the borough to provide alternative access to policing services.”

That seems pretty clear. It would make our nearest public access station Kentish Town, which is hardly convenient. What is still not clear is whether the whole of West Hampstead police station would close, including the 999 response units. As we all know, West Hampstead also has stables for the mounted police, although this division sits outside the borough structure. According to a letter from Camden’s conservative leader Andrew Mennear in the CNJ back in October, the mounted police would stay while the rest of the police station would close and West Hampstead’s police force would be off to Kentish Town. Even the latest draft of the Neighbourhood Development Plan mentions the police station site as a possible development space.

I’m led to understand by Andrew Dismore’s office that the (seemingly blindingly obvious) idea of turning the small Safer Neighbourhood Team base by the tube station into a front counter is not being considered. So where will locals be able to report crime (or hand in lost property)? The O2 shopping centre strikes me as the most obvious place. The SNT already runs stalls there from time to time, and there is designated community space upstairs. It’s hard to think of anywhere on West End Lane unless there could be co-sharing with the library, or with whatever comes to pass at 156 West End Lane (aka the Travis Perkins building). Mill Lane has more vacant spaces, but none of these solutions are to house a response team. Still, we all know that there’s never any traffic between here and Kentish Tow… oh, yes. Right.

Making savings of £500m is always going to lead to some difficult decisions, but efficiency and cost-effectiveness are surely only part of the equation when it comes to providing emergency service cover. In the meantime, Dismore’s changed his Twitter avatar to one that reads 999SOS – a Labour initiative in City Hall and across London to coordinate objections to the scale and speed of cuts to the police and fire services.

How would you feel about the demise of the front counter at West Hampstead? How about the loss of the whole police station?