A Message From Merton's Police Borough Commander

Darren Williams speaks out on hate crime and more

"Dear all,

I hope that you have all had a good week - only 10 more weekends until Christmas!
This week is National Hate Crime Week and as many of you know, in a previous role I was Hate Crime Lead for the MPS so it is a subject that I am very passionate about. To reflect this, I want to write this week about hate crime and what the MPS does to tackle it and support victims.

Hate crime such racist crime, domestic violence, disability crime and homophobia hurts us all. It strikes at the heart of all our communities and it damages the people that we care about protecting. It is a high priority both for the MPS and for me personally.

There are 500 specialist hate crime investigators in each of the 32 boroughs across London and they are there specially to help anyone who has been affected by someone else's prejudice, ignorance or violence.

Statically, Merton has some of the lowest reported levels of LGBT hate crime anywhere in London BUT this worries me. All hate crime, but particularly LGBT hate crime, is massively under-reported to police and I am just not convinced that our incredibly low levels are reflective of the true picture in Merton. Especially since the recent Stonewall survey indicated that 1 in 6 LGBT people experience hate crime, whilst across the country a person with a learning disability will be bullied, attacked or called an offensive name every day.

We cannot and will not allow this to happen in Merton. I am committed to taking robust action against perpetrators, supporting the needs of victims, and working in partnership with external agencies to make the lives of those suffering hate crime safer, protect their families, their communities and prevent re-victimisation.

One of the problems with hate crime is that many victims don't realise that what has happened to them is a crime. Victims are often not sure if someone shouting abuse at them in the street or sending them hate mail because of their religion, sexual orientation or disability is a crime. They often believe that someone has to hurt them before it counts as a crime.

The specially trained staff at Merton do everything they can to help support people through what has happened to them by staying in touch throughout investigations, from start to finish. They contact victims within 24 hours of the initial report to let them know what is happening and give a phone number, so they can call us directly to find out how their case is going or talk about anything that might be worrying them.

With the victim's consent, we put them in touch with other support organisations that understand their specific needs. If appropriate we arrest the suspect at the time to prevent further harm to the victim and give them time to think. If that's not possible, we do all we can to find the suspect. We always take the victims wishes into account when deciding what to do with the suspect. Whatever happens, we  provide regular updates every step of the way. For example, we will probably ask for a statement explaining what happened. If the case goes to court, we explain the court processes and let people know what is expected of them.

Victims can come in to any police station, anywhere in London, or one of our specially trained officers will arrange to visit them at a place that is easier or more comfortable for them. People can talk to us by themselves or ask someone else to speak on their behalf such as a friend or relative, a community leader, solicitor or someone from the local authority.

The most important message is  - If you can't tell the police - tell someone.

Under-reporting of hate crime results in missed opportunities to keep victims safe, provide essential support and assistance and bring the abusers to justice. No matter whether you or anyone else tells us about what happened it will be treated confidentially, sensitively and appropriately.

I have mentioned over the last few weeks that this is the time of year that burglaries start to rise due to the longer, darker nights. Hopefully your Safer Neighbourhoods teams have started to raise your awareness about this through their street briefings and surgeries and offered you advice and guidance on things you can do to secure your homes. I know that many of you have taken advantage of our free crime prevention surveys and I hope many more of you will do so in the near future and help prevent the stressful and emotional distress that burglary can result in.

We have also created a 'Virtual House', which is an online interactive tool that will take you through each room in your house and provide valuable security advice to keep thieves out. You can find it at content.met.police.uk/Site/virtualhousetour

Please remember

  • Close and lock all your doors and windows, even if you are only going out for a few minutes.
  • Make sure UPVC doors are properly locked with a key.
  • Make sure the side and/or back gate is locked.
  • Lock your shed or garage.
  • Make sure that any valuables are out of sight.
  • Leave some lights on if it will be dark before you get home.
  • Don't leave your car keys or ID documents near doors, windows or your letterbox.
  • For more crime prevention tips and advice on how to make your home secure visit our burglary prevention section on our website or contact your local Safer Neighbourhoods team. In an emergency, always dial 999.

Finally, Safer Merton carry out a strategic assessment each year to look at community safety issues on the borough. Part of this is a survey of residents and businesses to determine community concerns on issues such as; crime, disorder, antisocial behaviour, drugs and alcohol. They would like everyone who lives, works and visits the borough to take part as it will help them set the partnership priorities for the forthcoming year. Please try and find the time to take part if you can.

The link to the survey is here: www.merton.gov.uk/community-living/communitysafety/safermertonnewsandevents/safermertonconsultation.htm

On a personal level, since 1923 an Annual Solemn Requiem Mass has been held to commemorate serving officers who in the past year have died or lost their lives in the course of duty, and all deceased colleagues and friends.

This year the 91st Annual Requiem will be held on Wednesday 6th November 2013 at 2.30pm at Westminster Cathedral, Victoria Street, London. This Service is attended by leaders of the Police Services or their representatives, Police Chaplains of various denominations and representatives of a number of police associated organisations. This year PC Terry Elmer, Sgt Ian Harman and PC Andy Duncan will all be remembered at the service.

If any of you would like to attend this event please with us please let Dee/Dan in my office know so we can co-ordinate transport and meeting arrangements.

Next week I am at several events across the Borough that include a "Merton Against People Trafficking" event on Monday and on Wednesday afternoon, I am going out on a foot patrol in Wimbledon town centre with Councillors Oonagh Moulton and David Simpson, so if you are around at either please come and say 'hello'.  

Many thanks for your continued support - I hope you all have a pleasant and peaceful weekend."

Darren Williams

October 18, 2013

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Borough Commander Darren Williams