Do you feel safer now?

Over the last few days, on the pathway out of Sydenham Hill Station the Safer Neighbourhood Team for Southwark’s College Ward have put up notices about a mugging that took place on many of the commuters' route home.

As a Chair of an adjacent Safer Neighbourhood Team Residents Panel (Crystal Palace, of course!!), I probably recognise more readily evidence of community policing that goes on and am always heartened to see the teams are reaching out to the residents.

Part of the rationale behind the creation of the Safer Neighbourhoods teams is to try and close the gap between perception and fear of crime and the actual crime on the ground. You know the kind of stuff: elderly people terrified of going out when in fact the group most likely to be victims of crime are young men between 15 and 25 or the belief that crime is on a continuous upward spiral when in fact it is down on previous years figures.

We want our police to be visible and back on the beat; not in cars zooming from one emergency to anther with a flashing blue light on top.

But I did wonder, as I read about the muggings and the team’s warnings to commuters, whether notices like those actually made me feel safer.

In the 18 months or so that I have been involved in the Safer Neighbourhoods project I have watched our team change from a group of police who seemed to have come into the force to drive police cars fast to a group that have chosen community policing and care passionately for the area and the quality of life of the residents.

This, I believe will be Sir Ian Blair’s lasting legacy, as this switch to community policing is an enormous cultural change for the Metropolitan Police Service and as always, cultural change can only come from the top. Policemen and women will want to work on these teams only if community policing is valued by their bosses.

After reflection, I think I do feel safer – because the police are there, on the case and making efforts, not just to arrest the criminals, but to prevent it happening again and being on the side of the law abiding resident.


Anthony said...
3 Jan 2007, 11:15:00

Hi Jo,
How are you? I didn't realise that you had a blog! I found it was interesting that you are involved with your local safer neighbourhoods team - the police sergeant of the one where I live told me that as I have a party political affiliation I'm not allowed to be on the safer neighbourhoods panel (even though they need 5 more volunteers, especially people from younger age groups).

Jo Christie-Smith said...
3 Jan 2007, 11:26:00

Hi Anthony,

Well that might be your Sarge's policy but it is not a rule! At least not one followed over here in Bromley.

The Safer Neighbourhood Team know all about my political affiliation. We also have our 2 councillors on the panel - very useful as when we're trying to work out solutions to problems it's good to have them there as we can action them to take things up with the council.

We've even invited Labour activists to come along but they never bothered turning up!

You should ask him to show you where it says you can't be part of the panel Maybe he's worried that it wil turn into a political bun fight. We are a very non partisan panel, focused on trying to improve the quality of life for our residents. Just because you're a member of a political party doesn't mean you're not a resident and the MPS have to 'serve and protect' you just the same!

Anthony said...
3 Jan 2007, 11:41:00

Thanks Jo, will do: I've also asked the safer neighbourhoods office to clarify the rule for me as I'm still keen to get involved. I personally think it's a little patronising to imagine that I can't distinguish between something that I'd be a member of personally rather than politically!

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