On Thursday it was off with Sgt Paul Saunders, head of the Muswell Hill Safer Neighbourhood Team to look for suitable premises to re-house two of teams in the community. The Met Police are looking to put the community teams right in the heart of the community they serve – which is the right idea. The idea is to have four main central locations in Haringey for key functions: detention and custody; administration; response teams etc and then each neighbourhood to have its local team based at its heart.
Everyone loves their police station. It makes us feel safe, makes it easier to contact the police in non-emergencies and helps make the police part of the local community (rather than a distant impersonal force). With the reopening of the front counter at Muswell Hill Police Station – following a long campaign together with local police and residents – and with the arrival of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams, there has been a sense of vastly improving engagement between the police and the community. When I was on the London Assembly, along with my colleagues I supported full funding for the Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and I’ve had a few battles to ensure that parts of the borough don’t miss out on them – so it’s really good to see the reality and that it’s working!
This was clearly evidenced walking around with Sgt Saunders, his colleague Pauline Hearfield and local councillor Martin Newton (Lib Dem, Fortis Green). It was crystal clear by the way everyone said hello to Pauline and Paul that community policing is certainly working well in this patch. In fact, everyone knew them and they knew everybody – not only creating good public/police relations but also the level of knowledge and contact that helps gather intelligence and evidence – and so stop crime and catch crooks.
When the first murmurs of reorganising where police were stationed hit the streets, I had met with local Commander Simon O’Brien. The old Victorian Police stations are not ‘fit for purpose’ and so long as what is offered to local people in exchange for moving from that police station is better or equal then I think the police can argue a good case for the change.
In this light I went round with the police to talk about potential new premises. Some potential premises have already been identified. We walked past a great shop on Fortis Green that they had just missed – and then proceeded to PiP, the printers at the top of Dukes Avenue. I have yet to clarify whether it is ground and basement or the flats above too. If it is the latter, then it has potential – although a lot of work will need to be done (and it begs the question how much will it cost – because at a certain level it might be more economic to modernise the existing premises). If it doesn’t have the extra space – then I am not sure that everything will fit comfortably. So I am writing to Chief Superintendent O’Brien to clarify the situation and to get cast-iron guarantees about the space and what is to go in there exactly. Moreover, Simon O’Brien has also said that he is committed to working with the community, local councillors etc on this and I am also writing to establish how this is going to happen in advance of decisions being taken.