Wimbledon Police Station Threatened With Closure

Queens Road station could be sold-off to help save Met Police funds

Wimbledon police station is threatened with closure and sell-off in a report produced by the Mayor's Office on the future of policing in the capital.

The Queens Road building (right) is recommended for closure in a new report listing police stations across London which are underused or no longer needed as part of an asset disposal programme that is expected to bring in £170m.

The front counter service now offered on a 24/7 basis in Wimbledon would only be available locally at Mitcham, which is currently a daytime facility.

The report states funding for policing in London has been dropping steadily over a prolonged period of the report with over £600m already cut from the Metropolitan Police’s budget. A further £400m needs to be identified, it says.

The closure plans are outlined in the "Public Access and Engagement Strategy" report jointly produced by the Mayor's office and the Met.

It states: "On top of the £600m already saved from the MPS budget, London's police now need to deliver a further £400m of savings over the next four years.

"Our investment in front line policing, and the equipment needed for a 21st century police force, is made possible by selling expensive to run buildings - many of which only support back-office activity - which are underused or no longer needed."

It says a reinvigoration of community engagement, including an increase in Dedicated Ward Officers and new technology, will make police more accessible in local communities.

According to the report, an average of 0.7 crimes a day were reported at the front counter of Mitcham police station during May. Wimbledon had 2.6 crimes a day reported over the same time frame.

Merton Conservatives responded via Twitter: @MertonTories "Makes absolutely no sense. #wimbledon town centre is #merton crime hotspot."

Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond said: "This is a ridiculous proposal which I will be objecting to. Wimbledon Station is very well located near the town centre, which has a huge night-time economy and a large transport hub which needs policing. Wimbledon also hosts the Championships, bringing a huge number visitors from all over the world who need to be kept safe."

Carl Quilliam, Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesman for Wimbledon, said: "The London Mayor's plan to shut down Wimbledon Police Station is totally unacceptable. Funding for local police services has been consistently cut by administration after administration, while residents in Wimbledon are being put at risk. The station promotes visible community policing and makes reporting crime easier.

Lord Brian Paddick, former Merton Police Borough Commander, said: "Closing police stations is a false economy. The most valuable resources the police service has are its officers and forcing them to spend hours commuting between distant police stations and their beat at the beginning and end of their shift, when they take a meal break and whenever they make an arrest, will cost far more than what is saved by closing buildings. Operational police stations are beacons of reassurance in communities and closing them will make us all feel less safe.”

Over the past three years the proportions of people choosing to report crime in London through different methods has remained broadly static, according to the report, with around 70% of crime reported on the phone, around 8% at front counters with very little reported online.

When Londoners are asked what their preferred current method of contacting the police is, well over two thirds say they would prefer to use the telephone, followed by 15% who would prefer to contact in person. Just 10% say they would currently use the website or other digital methods.

However the police envisage a big increase in the amount of crime that is reported through their web site and on social media. Over the past ten years the number of crimes reported at front counters has fallen by three quarters and, as a proportion of all crimes reported, has fallen from 22% in 2006 to 8% in 2016 although this may be partly due to previous front counter closures.

The number of front counters in operation has been decreasing even before the current changes, from 149 in 2008 to 73 currently and a significant proportion of the remainder look set to close. The report claims that as officers generally respond to incidents while out patrolling in vehicles in the community, rather than directly from response bases, there should be no impact on response times from these changes.

Anyone wishing to respond to consultation should do so by visiting www.London.gov.uk/public-access or emailing consultation@mopac.london.gov.uk

Responses will be received until 5.30pm on 6 October 2017.

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July 17, 2017

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