Stephen Greenhalgh is Deputy Mayor of London for Policing and Crime and the former Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council
In the last year crime has fallen like a stone in the metropolis and crime is down in every single one of the 32 London boroughs. However
one of the largest reductions in the seven priority victim-based neighbourhood crimes took place in my old stomping ground of Hammersmith and Fulham. The so-called MOPAC 7 crimes are down by 15 per cent for 2013/14 in H&F compared to 7 per cent across London. Some of the highlights are robbery down by 26 per cent, theft from a person offences down 20 per cent, criminal damage offences down 15 per cent and the number of burglaries is down 12 per cent.
The Met will not achieve the Mayor’s 20-20-20 challenge to cut crime by 20 per cent, boost public confidence by 20 per cent whilst cutting costs by 20 per cent over four years without a sustained reduction in the number of burglaries. So this morning I joined the crime squad in Hammersmith and Fulham as part of the Met’s Big Wing day of action across London focused on burglary.
The day got off to a great start with the arrest of a suspected burglar. Apparently his fingerprints and DNA were left on a screwdriver that he had left at the scene of the burglary a few weeks before. Forensic science has really transformed the ability of the cops to catch criminals. A recent survey commissioned by Reform and carried out by Populus places investigating crime and catching criminals squarely in the top three most important roles of the police.
Collaboration with the council is crucial and it is notable that the council fund the sting cars and sting properties used by the police to catch burglars in the act.
Helping those in immediate danger is also seen by the public as another critical function of the police. The police told me how important it is to them to find and protect vulnerable citizens. They told me how they are now using GPS tracking technology to track patients that go missing from the Claybrook Centre on the Charing Cross Hospital campus with dementia and other complex mental health needs.
Finding missing people takes up a huge amount of police time and technology like this is so important for the police so that they can find the time to prevent crime from happening in the first place.
The Populus survey identifies that preventing crime is the most critical part of the police mission for Londoners. In an era of austerity this requires both collaboration and creativity.
Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative Council have built up an extensive network of 800 CCTV cameras.
There is a direct link from the council’s control centre to the Video Images and Identification Detection Office (VIIDO) in Hammersmith Police Station. This link also enables police officers to move the cameras around themselves and to go back to any point in time to view footage in real time. The beauty is that this network of cameras costs the council virtually nothing when other councils would be paying BT or other providers hundreds of thousands of pounds to access their fibre optic network. Instead the council has built up its own network by working with the Met’s Design Out Crime Officers so that the cost of building the network is part of the Secured by Design planning condition for major new developments.
Then Section 106 planning conditions are used to enhance the network with additional cameras. Westfield and the football clubs have all joined the network and the council is helping to link up the CCTV for Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospitals at a nominal cost. The beauty is that other providers are now paying to use the council’s network and the council expects to generate up to £12 million in revenue over the next five years. So as many councils threaten to turn their CCTV cameras off, H&F have shown the benefits of commercialisation and collaboration in keeping their residents safe.