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Jan 11 2013

Navin Says: Harrow’s Policing Consultation- “The Alice in Wonderland Plan”

navin_shah2I attended the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) Public Consultation at Harrow Civic Centre in Harrow on Thursday 10th January 2013. Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Stephen Greenhalgh hosted the meeting, accompanied by Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne to consult on the new policing model for London and its implications on Harrow. Cllr Thaya Idaikkader – Leader of Harrow Council, chaired the meeting and Harrow’s Borough Commander Dal Babu also sat on the panel.

There was a packed audience of well over 100 residents and lobby groups that attended the consultation to hear how the changes to policing would affect Harrow. Many of those that attended appeared far from impressed with the new model on the table involving a new structure for mainly smaller Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNT), closure of Pinner Police Stations and the deletion of facilities at Harrow Civic Centre. There was no mention of Wealdstone Police Station at the meeting – which is already closed to public.

The wide ranging questions and comments focused on MOPAC’s claim about the police numbers going up, when MOPAC’s own evidence suggest that the numbers had fallen dramatically from 2010. Whilst the panel stated that police numbers will increase the fact is that police numbers have gone down by 17 officers since 2010 and SNTs across the Borough have been grossly depleted. There was no enthusiasm for the new SNT Model.

I asked the following question to the panel:

What alternative, equitable front counter facilities will you be making before closing the Civic Centre presence, Pinner Police Station and Wealdstone Police Station? How do you justify the closure of Civic Centre facility when the Mayor is quite rightly promoting shared services?

I also declared my disagreement to the planned closures. A Pinner Councillor also voiced his opposition to the closure of Pinner Police Station. All-round there appeared to be no support for the closure of front counters and closing of police stations.

MOPAC’s policing plan is like Alice in Wonderland stuff; fictional and fictitious. I’m totally opposed to this make believe plan and so are the residents of Harrow who gave thumbs down to the draft proposals. The proposed policing model presents no more than a make believe scenario and MOPAC’s figures do not add up. According to MOPAC’s own figures, Harrow is now short of 15 Sergeants, 44 Police Officers and 44 PCSOs. SNTs in most wards in Harrow, including my Kenton East Ward are seriously depleted. The rhetoric from the Deputy Mayor is that he wants to see more officers rooted in the community and reconnect with public but in reality he is replacing the current much larger and successful teams with smaller SNTs with the loss of dedicated Sergeants in Wards. This is far from a recipe for better local policing and engagement!

I’m firmly against the closure of police stations as I see police stations as community hubs providing vital access to local police. Closure of Pinner Police Station and facilities at the Civic Centre is very ill-conceived. Why shut down a Police Station like Pinner when it is run by volunteers? I’m relieved to find that a Pinner Councillor also shares my concerns about the proposed closure of Pinner Police station. Harrow Council is fully supportive of the local police and is reaching out for even greater shared services with Police at the Civic Centre. So why shut down the police presence there? Clearly MOPAC has not thought through what they are proposing. The Mayor has stated that he will provide a new alternative front counter in the immediate locality with better facilities before closing police stations, but I did not get any such assurance for Harrow from the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Stephen Greenhalgh and Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne when I raised this issue at the meeting. These closures are nothing but asset stripping and an act of vandalism which will hurt locally and deprive communities even further.”

I wrote to the Borough Commander in November requesting detailed information about the long term future of the South Harrow Police Station, SNT Bases, Custody Suites, Safer Neighbourhood Boards and Equality Impact Assessment but have not received a reply to my specific questions. I’d be writing to the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Stephen Greenhalgh on these matters.

The proposed policing model is short-sighted and will fundamentally undermine the ability of local police service to keep us safe. Harrow is statistically one of the safest boroughs but I’m seriously concerned about the increase in crime as a result of these draft proposals. Enough is enough and I urge local residents to oppose the plan and respond to MOPAC by 6th March.

Source: Navin Shah

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