Many people recognise the difference between crime and the fear of crime. Often the two seem to vary with little direct relationship whilst particular incidents that may be once-in-a-lifetime events can have a catastrophic effect on the fear of crime. The focus of the next Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Community Council – the local authority’s principal body covering SE16 and neighbouring areas – is on Community Safety and the agenda has forty minutes devoted to answering community concerns about burglary, theft from the person and from vehicles, hate crimes and other aspects of the local safety agenda. The community at previous meetings of the Community Council has prioritised this discussion.
Keeping everyone informed
Meeting Inspector Steve Landers gave me a stronger sense of the dilemmas and tensions facing the police force in our area. “Whenever we try to share our work on social media, it seems to come a cropper,” admitted Steve. “If we share our successes, we are accused of ignoring the victims or misusing our resources. If we put out warnings about potential crime hot spots, we only stoke the fires of fear in the community. It often feels like we can’t win!” We met in the Canada Water Café and Steve arrived out of uniform. We discussed how the local police service was faring with the present financial constraints.
“To be honest, we are constantly having to prioritise. Resourcing our response teams takes initial priority over all other aspects of our work. We have to be able to respond to urgent types of crime where lives are at risk within 15 mins and others where people may be very distressed or property has been damaged within a hour. These targets make real demands on our stretched officers and PCSOs. We are often partly staffed with probationers who are on rotation with us of six months or less. It means that community policing often gets squeezed to meet other demands. Southwark MPS is also required to offer mutual aid which results in officers having to police on other boroughs and events such as football and other sporting events and of course demonstrations in and around central London. Of course this effects public perception of local officer numbers and availability.”
Targets and partners
“We have challenging targets to reduce seven types of crime by 20% at the same time as reducing costs by 20% and increasing trust in the police by 20% to 75% approval. That leaves us with a huge responsibility to create strong bonds with members of the public and depend on community response for many of the traditional policing roles. We work closely with our community partners and have forged strong links over the years across Southwark. We need community partners who are able to watch out for themselves just as neighbourhood watch do and to know when to report more serious issues. And of course individuals can do a great deal to help prevent crime by taking simple precautions and acting sensibly.”
“…This year, the decision has been taken to make [Southwark Park fireworks] a ticket-only event and my officers will need to be on hand at all the points of entry to the Park to ensure that everything goes smoothly in inspecting those tickets…”
Working as a team
“For nearly a decade 2002-11, I was part of the Southwark Metropolitan Police Service and when I came back at my own request from Bromley in 2014, I was stationed in Peckham. I’ve been here in charge of the five teams in Rotherhithe since May this year and we cover the north-east of the borough from Borough Market and More London right through to the boundary with Lewisham. Each team has a sergeant who I manage directly and they in turn work with their constables and PCSOs in each ward. They are the first point of call for the public for crime prevention, support and advice as well as managing the work of the team.”
“We have one of the biggest challenges of the year coming up with first Halloween and then the Southwark Fireworks on 5 November in the Park. This year, the decision has been taken to make it a ticket-only event and my officers will need to be on hand at all the points of entry to the Park to ensure that everything goes smoothly in inspecting those tickets. As well as the entry to the Park, we have to be aware of crowd and traffic control and the inevitable presence of pick-pockets in such gatherings. The event in previous years has normally run very well with only a few minor incidents but we are always careful to ensure the policing is proportionate so as to settle things down before they get out of hand whenever possible.”
“…Resourcing our response teams takes initial priority over all other aspects of our work. We have to be able to respond to urgent types of crime where lives are at risk within 15 mins and others where people may be very distressed or property has been damaged within a hour…”
“We are always keen to emphasise that a crime prevented by sensible precautions is a crime that didn’t need our attention. Operation Bumblebee is one such effort. We all know that keeping our homes safe is a key way to prevent burglary spreading. Similarly, MetTrace encourages us all to mark our most frequently stolen goods with a simple forensic marking kit. That way those goods are less attractive to burglars and easier to trace if they are stolen. Whilst vehicle crime is reducing, it’s always sensible to take care of your car, motorcycle or moped. Cycle security and cycle marking events are both part of the Met’s work as well. Anti-social behaviour such as letting off fireworks, graffiti or dumped furniture can be reported in a number of ways and not just to the police.”
Community safety is the responsibility of everyone, not just our police force. We all need to take up that responsibility and ensure the resources of the police are used to the very best.
The next Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Community Council meeting is on Saturday 17 October at 13:00 at the Silverlock Community Hall. The focus this time is crime and community safety.
Inspector Steve Landers E: Steve.P.Landers@met.pnn.police.uk
T: 020 7232 6865 M: 07919 164811
Rotherhithe Police Station, 9 Lower Rd, SE16 2XQ