Darren Williams on closure of SNT bases
This week I would like to talk about a subject that I know is still an emotive one for some of you - the closure of SNT bases and specifically Pincott Road.
As part of consultation for the Local Policing Model, (LPM) I engaged with senior partners across Merton to set out my strategy for increasing efficiency and reducing costs to meet the targets given to us by MOPAC. I explained that my plan to reduce costs and improve efficiency was by rationalising the police estate, specifically by releasing some of the SNT remote bases as their leases expired.
My strategy was supported by the Chief Executive and all other senior partners and this was presented to the community during the Deputy Mayor's roadshow.
From an operational perspective I decided that our three Neighbourhood Teams of Mitcham, Morden and Wimbledon should operate from single parade sites. This condensed 20 SNTs across 9 bases all parading separately, into three parade sites. We trialled this with the 7 SNTs in Mitcham in January prior to the Local Policing Model.
Our pilot found that supervision, briefing, teamwork and the ability to provide a more flexible approach to emerging problems across Mitcham were all enhanced. In effect we had less managers but we were better managed so the decision to replicate this model on the two remaining Neighbourhoods was therefore an easy one.
Prior to its closure, Pincott Road SNT base accommodated two Safer Neighbourhood Teams, namely Abbey Ward and Colliers Wood Ward. From January 2013 the Colliers Wood team paraded from Mitcham Police Station as part of the pilot above, leaving just the Abbey Team at the base. With the commencement of the LPM only the 'faces of the ward', a PC and a PCSO would have been permanently stationed at the base. The base is only one mile from Wimbledon Police Station and the boundary for Abbey Ward itself is even closer, at worst ten minutes walk away.
We have increased both our cycle and vehicle fleet and with the base being so close to Wimbledon Police Station and having such a low occupancy rate it is difficult to support a business case to keep the Pincott Road base open.
However, it is only natural that the closure has caused some anxiety amongst the community in the immediate vicinity of the base on the High Path Estate. However, I hope that the community are reassured that two 'faces of the ward' are now in position on Abbey Ward and are ring-fenced to work only on Abbey. Also, one of those officers is Pc Beesley who was part of the Abbey Ward for a considerable time. Not having a base to go to means that the ward officers are more visible in the community with officers spending more time on the beat than sat in the SNT base.
It is also reassuring to know that despite the closure of the base, crime is continuing to fall. Burglary has been going down month on month since February 2013. Since May there have also been less victims of theft from motor vehicle than for the same period the year before. At the same time drugs offences rose by 67% in July and 25% in August. As drugs offences are "police generated" I believe this demonstrated that we had increased our pro-activity on the ward.
On September 19th we conducted a major policing operation on the High Path Estate that resulted in 23 arrests. Much of the drive behind this operation was provided by Abbey Ward sergeant Ps Steve Murfin and I am confident that he will have a significant impact on crime on Abbey Ward.
Please be reassured that I continually review our strategies to ensure that our local policing delivery is as effective and efficient as possible and does not compromise the high level of customer service that you have become used to here in Merton. However, I remain cognisant of the need to assist the MPS in reducing estate in line with the our corporate real estate plan.
Rationalising estate is one of the few avenues open to me to contribute towards MOPAC targets of reducing our costs by 20%. This means I have to make difficult choices and ultimately that means having to prioritise between buildings and officers on the street. Across London we are reducing our estate by about a third and here in Merton, that choice was an easy one for me. My priority has always been and will always be, officers on the street. Neighbourhood Policing remains the foundation of local policing in Merton and as such we have an uplift of 43 constables into Neighbourhood Teams to enhance our service to you.
At this time, it is unlikely that I will look to reverse my decision and re-open any SNT bases but I felt it was important to explain to you again why the closures were made whilst trying to reassure you that access to your local officers and our operational effectiveness have not been compromised - in fact I believe that both have been enhanced.
I do realise that I can't please everyone all the time and that is why I have been attending ward panels and other group meetings across the borough to listen to specific concerns, answer questions and explain why closures have been made. If any of you have a meeting you would like me to attend please contact my office.
As you all know I regularly take people from the community out on patrol with us so you can see what our job is like and we can see the borough from your perspective. We are just about to arrange the next batch of these "Insight" patrols and I encourage any of you that are interested in coming out with us to contact my office. It would be helpful if you could tell us a bit about yourself, why you would like to come out on patrol and any particular things you are interested in. Don't forget one of these patrols has already lead to someone from the community joining our team here as a volunteer.
Two final bits before I sign off this week - Firstly, well done to PC Chris Crouch the Schools Officer at Rutlish. He has just been awarded a Jack Petchey Leader Award. What is really special about this award was that the nomination actually came from the school children and not the staff or the Local Authority. I will pick out just a few quotes from his citation; "Helping to improve relationships between students, relationships between staff & students and between students & the Police", "Helping to reduce levels of poor behaviour and to develop levels of respect", "Organising initiatives to build confidence amongst students" and "Using his experiences to support students to address any personal and social barriers" - Well done Chris a fantastic achievement.
Secondly, just a couple of quick crime prevention messages - due to the high value of precious metals contained in a vehicles exhaust system, thieves are stealing catalytic converters. They cost over £1000 to replace and it is easier for a thief to slide underneath a vehicle with a high ground clearance. Vehicles commonly targeted include Mercedes Sprinters / Ford Rangers / Mitsubishi vans / 4x4’s. It takes a thief less than 2 minutes to unscrew the securing bolts or cut the exhaust and remove a converter.
Where possible, park your vehicle in a locked garage. Engrave / etch the converter – having stickers on a vehicle warning that the converter is security marked deters thieves as it will be harder to sell and easier to trace. Invest in a lock, consider a specially devised catalytic converter lock professionally fitted. Most garages can advise you on these locks. Install motion sensor lighting - this comes on when it is dark if there is any movement around your vehicle / premises. Park your vehicles defensively - if you own multiple vehicles use those with the lowest ground clearance to block those with a higher clearance. If all your vehicles have a high clearance park them very close together.
Across London we have received a few calls from concerned residents about a company called UDS claiming that they are working alongside police to help with crime prevention and in particular burglaries. We do not know of this company and are NOT working in conjunction with them. Trading Standards are aware. Normally these type of companies offer a free alarm and then hit you with a high maintenance fee - treat this calls with caution and always use a reputable company for any security features you may wish to purchase.
Please report any suspicious males / females knocking on your doors asking for work to be done. Although you might say no and send them away we would very much like to have a chat with these people and would ask you to contact us if this is happening in your road. Dial 101 if not an emergency but if you ever suspect a crime is about to be committed call 999 as often these people are burglars and use this as a cover to see if anyone is at home.
That's almost it for this week - its half term next week and I am out and about across the borough at different meetings so please stop me and say hello if you see me."
October 27, 2013