Where are we heading with local policing? It seems no-one really knows for sure.
The debate around the future of policing in Camden has been plagued by poor consultation (and a fair bit of misinformation!)
The Camden “consultation” event on Mayor Johnson’s Police and Crime Plan held at the Camden Centre at the end of January was generally regarded to have been shambolic, and an occasion when the panel seemed more interested in talking at than listening to those who took the trouble to attend.
A few days later some 50 local residents attended the West Hampstead and Fortune Green area forum on a bitterly cold night, anxious to hear about plans for the closure of the front counter at West Hampstead police station and fearful that the station would close altogether. Lib Dem local councillor John Bryant led a lively debate but sadly both the police and Camden’s community safety team had sent their apologies.
Then Camden’s Labour Cabinet Member for Community Safety set up a meeting on the same subject on Wednesday 6th March at West Hampstead library with minimal publicity and short notice, which only attracted four local residents plus councillors. However, Camden’s Borough Commander of police Richard Tucker was present and promised a further, better organised and more widely advertised meeting once the result of the police consultation is published. He also said he hoped to find a way to keep the front counter open at Fortune Green police station!
Meanwhile at yesterday’s Fortune Green Safer Neighbourhood Panel meeting, the “North Area” Inspector, Matt Ashmead, outlined what local police have been told of latest schemes. We will be part of the “North Area” (or cluster) which stretches from Highgate to Kilburn and will have more “neighbourhood police” than before, but they will be doing different things.
Fortune Green and West Hampstead will drop to dedicated teams of one shared sergeant, one PC each and one PCSO each plus another PCSO who will not be dedicated to the SNT. There may be other officers who can be called on to help out if they aren’t busy in, say, Highgate! Not very reassuring and its clear no-one knows if this will work.
The Area Inspector will set overall priorities and it will be up to the local panels to find their own “priorities” (or what they are calling “promises”) to slot in under these.
Inspector Ashmead also told us the latest plan is for the North Area Team to be based at the police station in Fortune Green so the building itself should remain whether or not it is open to the public. “Contact points” are to established across the area which will be open to the public for about 4 hours a day – one during the week and one on Saturdays. These are now NOT going to be in Costa Coffee or Sainsbury’s but maybe in the SNT bases.
It’s still all shrouded in mystery and speculation and the scene in the library where all is revealed seems some way off yet! It would take the assorted skills of Poirot, Miss Marple, and Sherlock Holmes to untangle this plot!