Darren Williams reflects on his year as Merton's police boss...
As this year draws to a close, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on what has been a busy, yet rewarding 2013. We have achieved a lot, and have much more to look forward to in 2014.
I want to start with a recent event and say a huge thank you to everyone who was involved in our Christmas initiative. Given my lack of exercise and volume of chocolate consumption over the last two weeks I am rapidly developing the build of Father Christmas.
This year I actually felt like him as well, when I was given to opportunity to deliver some of the Christmas Hampers to some our most in need people. I knew it was a great project but I don't think I had realised just how special it was until I saw the reactions of the people we delivered too.
The reactions ranged from tears of joy to stunned (in a good way) silences, but it also brought home to me the impact of the financial situation for many people living in our communities.
Over 2,500 people were given a Christmas meal that they would probably otherwise not have had. I have singled out the organisers for praise in my previous messages and so I would like to thank our two great MPs, Siobhain McDonagh and Stephen Hammond, the Leader of the Council Stephen Alambritis and the leader of the Conservative Group, Oonagh Moulton who all helped out with the deliveries.
2013 for me can be summarised in a few words - in the face of significant challenges, we made significant progress.
The Local Policing Model (LPM) is possibly the biggest change we have ever made to policing in the MPS. We have put neighbourhoods at the forefront of the service that we provide and these larger teams provide more flexible resources across a number of wards. In addition, neighbourhood officers are taking on more police work on their wards such as investigation of offences and targeting offenders committing crime and anti social behaviour.
The challenge of the LPM is that the resource model is based on police numbers in 2015, so we have had to made a number of key decisions to enable us to implement the model whilst we still some gaps in numbers. There is still much work to do to refine and re-adjust this where necessary but I believe we end 2013 stronger with greater clarity, a greater determination to succeed and a renewed commitment to provide exceptional customer service to the people of Merton. In terms of policing - I made you all three promises when I arrived as your Borough Commander;
I have always made my feelings about domestic violence well known. It is my personal view that Domestic Violence is the single biggest cause of violence in society today. In 2013 we ran a number of campaigns with our partners to encourage survivors of domestic violence to come forward to report their crimes, often after years of abuse. We have provided bespoke support in partnership with DV specialists within the Local Authority and as a result almost 100 more people came forward than the previous year.Now it may sound unusual to hear a Borough Commander "celebrating" an apparent rise in crime but DV and Hate crime are so massively under-reported to police that I will always consider an increase of reports in these areas as a positive thing. A challenge for us all in 2014 is to apply what we have learnt with DV into the abuse of elderly and disabled people.
It is my view that many of these crime are completely hidden from us, yet we know older and disabled people are specifically targeted not just by criminals but also by people they know - sometimes even family members. Whether this abuse takes the form of financial deception or physical assault, the effect on the victim is still considerable.Every so often, a crime happens that really affects me and this was the case earlier this year when an elderly disabled male was assaulted and burgled in Finborough Road. The suspect, a black female not only assaulted the victim but stole his writing tablet that he uses for communication purposes. We are convinced that the suspect knew the victim and that she specifically targeted him because of his disability and we are therefore treating this as a Hate Crime.
A suspect was arrested but has been bailed due to the complicated nature of the investigation and the difficulty the victim has communicating. This is exactly the sort of thing that I mean when we desperately need your help to find ways of both preventing and detecting this type of offence.I have recently been meeting with support groups across Merton to try and identify ways to improve this situation for both disabled and elderly people and if any of you would like to be involved in these projects please get in touch with me. We had many policing challenges during 2013.
The murder of Lee Rigby in May, shocked and appalled everyone and for a while there was a rise in racial tension in some areas across London. I was so proud of the way that we as a borough responded. Merton's strength has always been its diverse communities and sense of team spirit, so it was no surprise to see our borough unite behind a message of being against hatred of any kind, for any reason.Andy Murray winning the Men's singles title at the AELTC Championships in Wimbledon seemed to bring the country to a standstill. Our policing operation had taken months of planning and so we were prepared for record crowd numbers and unusually hot weather. Officers had to work many long hours, often in baking temperatures and I am extremely grateful to every single member of the policing team and those at the AELTC for their efforts. On personal level I am extremely proud that one of Britain's greatest sporting moments happened in our Borough.
Another thank you must go to "Love Wimbledon" and in particular Helen Clarke-Bell for arranging and managing the "Screen on the Green" in Wimbledon Piazza. There was a great atmosphere and really gave a great buzz to Wimbledon Town Centre.I was also delighted that Andy Murray went on the win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Whilst I cannot claim to know Andy personally, I have met him several times and I can tell you that he really is a lovely man. Very polite, very unassuming, a keen sense of humour and a real role model for the sporting stars of the future.
In September our officers were first on scene at the tragic incident that caused the death of our colleague PC Andrew Duncan. PC Duncan, 47, who was also known as Andy, was working on a speed enforcement operation with a colleague, when they noticed a car driving at speed along Reigate Avenue.Andy attempted to stop the car - a black VW Golf - by signalling for the driver to pull over. The car collided with Andy and he was thrown 30 metres and left critically injured. The car drove off towards Rosehill and was found abandoned nearby. Andy was taken to hospital following the collision and died in the early hours of Sunday, 22 September.
Gary Bromige also known as Gary Cody, 25, of Holland Road, South Norwood, pleaded guilty at Kingston Crown Court on Friday, 20 December 2013 to causing death by dangerous driving, causing death whilst uninsured, causing death whilst unlicensed, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and failing to report an accident.Bromige, who was not legally permitted to drive, drove so dangerously and recklessly that his actions led to the tragic death of Andy. Bromige also callously failed to stop, leaving a critically injured officer at the scene.
Andy's death has had a profound effect on his family, friends and colleagues and hopefully Bromige now faces a jail sentence to reflect on the devastation that he has caused.Later in September approximately 160 of our officers, supported by 350 officers from across London executed simultaneous dawn raids at addresses across Merton and neighbouring boroughs in a crackdown on gang members who had been dealing heroin and crack cocaine on the High Path Estate. Over 35 people have now been arrested for offences including drugs supply, GBH, Robbery and Burglary. It was a huge effort by every single person involved and was the result of months of detective work and evidence gathering.
No doubt 2014 will bring similar incidents combined with a different mix of successes and challenges. My focus and strategy are as clear as they have ever been and I am absolutely focused on the things that are within my control. The MPS continues to face ongoing financial challenges, to which none of us are immune. However, we have shown this year that we can adjust to restructures with a renewed sense of confidence and a belief in our ability to go from strength to strength.I wish to publicly acknowledge and thank my wonderful officers, staff, volunteers and cadets for their hard work and dedication over the year that without a doubt has made Merton a safer borough to work, live, commute in or visit.
My Senior Leadership Team and I are all very proud of the hard work, commitment and dedication shown by our officers and staff in 2013. We are ready for the challenges ahead and we are committed to continuing to provide you with high quality borough focused policing that you can be proud of.On a personal level 2014 will present a number of physical challenges for me. On 1st June 2014, 10 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and 10 Police officers from Merton (+ one Conservative Councillor) will attempt the "Centenary Ride for Peace" from Glasgow back to Merton. We will have to complete an average of just over 100 miles a day for 7 days in a row and we are riding for 2 reasons;
Bearing in mind my earlier comments about my chocolate consumption and judging by my awful ride in to work yesterday, I have considerable weight to lose and huge fitness to gain before attempting either of these two events. I will keep you up to date with my progress and I can't promise that I won't be coming to you for a bit of sponsorship for what, I hope you will agree are both really great causes.That is about it from me, thank you all your support during 2013 - I know you all think that I am far too cheesy already, but it is a huge honour to be your Borough Commander - I really do believe that I have the best job in the best police service in the world.
I wish you a Happy New Year and a safe and prosperous 2014.
December 30, 2013