Keeping Our Capital's Streets Safe; London's Councils Are Demanding More Influence on Crime Prevention. Sarah Richardson Finds out How Policing Is Being Made More Accountable

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Richardson

LONDON'S boroughs are spending [pounds sterling]50 million a year on initiatives to keep their local communities safe, responding to public concerns regarding crime and the fear of crime. According to research from London Councils, the member organisation committed to fighting for more resources for the capital and getting the best possible deal for London's 33 local authorities, boroughs are paying towards more than 300 police community support officers and around 60 police posts. It also helps fund a number of dedicated teams and units aimed at making communities safer.

The survey showed that Brent Council has pledged to fund 16 community support officers until at least 2011 and that Ealing Council is investing [pounds sterling]1 million to fund 50 community support officers, for example. Similarly, Kensington and Chelsea council pays more than [pounds sterling]1.5 million towards funding 76 community support officers.

Despite this substantial support to police work and their commitment to ensuring the capital is a safe place to live, work and visit, however, boroughs believe they still have insufficient say in how issues causing the most concern to their local communities are tackled by the police. London Councils is calling for local authorities to play a greater role in helping make the police more accountable to their local communities, including through the joined-up commissioning of local policing budgets and community safety initiatives.

Councillor Jason Stacey is London Councils' executive member for crime and public protection. He believes it is important that the police, local authorities and other organisations work closely together if we are going to make any real lasting impact on tackling crime and improving the lives of our local communities.

"To achieve this we firmly believe boroughs must be given the ability to share their knowledge and experience to help the police become more accountable to Londoners and boroughs," he says.

Through the Policing and Crime Bill, London Councils is pressing for councils to have a role in the joined-up commissioning of local policing budgets and community safety initiatives, and for borough police commanders to be part of the local council's senior management team.

Other proposals include councillors being represented directly on the Metropolitan Police Authority board and for more co-ordination between the police and councils on consulting with and holding meetings for local residents. A partnership between Croydon council, the London Fire Brigade, the Metropolitan Police, the National Probation Service and Croydon Primary Care Trust gives an idea of how this kind of arrangement can work in practice. The Safer Croydon Partnership funds 18 projects, ranging from tackling gang-relateviolence and drug dealing to supporting vulnerable young people and victims of crime.

Over the past three years, crime in Croydon has reduced by 13.4 per cent with a fall of three per cent during last year alone. Cllr Gavin Barwell, who as cabinet member for safety and cohesion chairs the Safer Croydon Partnership (SCP), has no doubt that the increased policing presence through the existence of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams has made a significant impact.

"We are determined to develop a greater sense of responsibility and respect and have taken tough action to curb anti-social behaviour and prevent perpetrators from engaging in more serious forms of crime," he says.

"Last year we deployed 10 uniformed neighbourhood enforcement officers around the borough to work closely with the Safer Neighbourhood Teams. …

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