Lib Dems call for the Met and Mayor to think again on police closures

Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr Martin Newton at Muswell Hill Police front counterHaringey Liberal Democrats are calling on the Metropolitan Police and the Conservative Mayor of London to change their plans for police stations and front counters in Haringey.

The opposition politicians have written to the Conservative Deputy Mayor of London for Policing, Stephen Greenhalgh, objecting to the proposals to close Muswell Hill police station and to reduce the opening hours at Hornsey and Tottenham.

The Lib Dems have been very clear in their letters that they firmly believe that opening hours at Hornsey and Tottenham should not be reduced and that a front counter should be retained in the Muswell Hill area. They have also made it clear that the impact of the proposals on local police Safer Neighbourhood Teams is unacceptable. 

The councillors’ opposition to the borough only having one publicly accessible twenty-four hour police counter echoes the concerns of the Lib Dem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone, who has also come out against the plans.

Cllr Martin Newton, Lib Dem crime and police spokesperson, comments:

“Haringey Liberal Democrats are opposed to the Met’s and Mayor’s proposals which will make it harder for members of the public to report crimes.

“It is particularly important that here in Haringey, where the London riots began, that the police make more effort to reach out to the community and be as accessible as possible.

“Sadly many people become victims of crime and when that happens they understandably want to be able to report it quickly and locally at any time of the day or night. Unfortunately for the police criminals do not operating during office hours, so the police must be available when the public need them not when it is convenient.

“Local residents in Tottenham and Muswell Hill shouldn’t have to travel miles away to Wood Green in the middle of the night to be able to report a crime, they should be able to do it locally.”

Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, said:

“I am fully behind the Haringey Lib Dems’ calls for the Mayor to change his plans for police stations and front counters in Haringey.

“Since the announcement, we have been calling for assurances that no service is lost without a suitable replacement. We oppose any reduction in hours at Hornsey police station and will be fighting to keep a police base and front counter staffed by the dedicated team of volunteers in Muswell Hill.”

Local Liberal Democrats launch campaign to keep police front counters open

Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr Martin Newton meeting volunteers who man Muswell Hill Police station front counterTo make the case for keeping police front counters open in Haringey, Lynne Featherstone MP is this week writing to thousands of local residents, urging them to respond to a survey about their use.

The request follows the launch of a Metropolitan police consultation that could potentially leave Haringey with only one front counter open 24/7. The Hornsey and Wood Green MP, who ran a long campaign to keep Muswell Hill police station open, and fought for better opening hours at Fishmongers Arms in Wood Green, is asking local residents to support her campaign for existing front counters to remain open.

To help make the case, Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson Cllr Martin Newton is also meeting the Haringey Borough Commander this week.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“Front counters matter. Although some residents feel happy reporting crime over the phone or via email, for many people, being able to speak to someone about being a victim of crime, and getting the reassurance of a friendly face is crucial.

“Having fought long and hard for Muswell Hill police station to stay open, and for better opening hours at the front counter in Wood Green, I know that people need and want a physical place to go and report crime to. Please take a few minutes to respond to our survey, and help us make the case for keeping them open.”

Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson Cllr Martin Newton adds:

“Closing front counters is bad for crime reporting, and bad for crime fighting. If Haringey only had one front counter, most people would have to travel far, maybe for as long as an hour, to report crime face-to-face. I fear that would put people off.

“With the consultation running until the 27th May, we only have a short time to make the case for why our front counters need to stay open. Please call Lynne’s office on 020 8340 5459 to respond to our survey.”

The ongoing Metropolitan Police consultation (running until the 27th May) can be responded to by going to this site: http://www.keysurvey.co.uk/survey/360083/41a8/
Residents who want to participate in the Liberal Democrat survey should contact Lynne Featherstone MP’s office either on 020 8340 5459, via email on lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org or write to her at Lynne Featherstone MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Where’s your Watch?

Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr Martin Newton with members of the Southwood Lawn Road and Highgate Avenue Neighbourhood watchTo launch the ‘Where’s your Watch?’ Campaign, to encourage local streets to start Neighbourhood Watch groups, Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr Martin Newton recently went to speak to a newly started Neighbourhood Watch in Highgate.
 
Residents on Southwood Lawn Road and Highgate Avenue started their ‘Watch’ after a recent spate of burglaries. With the help of Highgate Safer Neighbourhoods Team, the neighbours decided to do their bit to help keep homes on their street safe.
 
To encourage other streets to follow suit, Local Liberal Democrats are now writing to streets in Hornsey and Wood Green that do not already have a ‘Watch’.
 
Liberal Democrats on Haringey Council are also fighting to get the post of Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator, recently axed by Haringey Police, reinstated by the Council.
 
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
 
“Neighbourhood Watch groups are great. They can help cut crime, reduce the fear of crime, and they can be a fantastic way for neighbours to get to know each other better.
 
“And that certainly seems to be the case with the Southwood Lawn and Highgate Avenue Watch. There was an impressive turnout for the meeting and a fantastic sense of community.
 
“I hope our ‘Where’s your Watch’ campaign will result in other local streets reaping the same benefits.”
 
Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson Cllr Martin Newton adds:
 
“Being a victim of crime is awful, and the recent burglaries on Southwood Lawn Road have really shocked the residents. But they are certainly doing what they can to stop this happening again.
 
“With better contact with the local police, I really got a sense of the neighbours feeling empowered and more in control. When people look out for each other we get better, warmer, friendlier communities – not a bad return for starting a Neighbourhood Watch!
 
“Liberal Democrats on the Council recognise the importance of Neighbourhood Watch groups and recently proposed to fund the axed Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator in Haringey. It was a shame however that Labour decided that this is not a priority and voted against our proposal.”

Lynne Featherstone MP meets top police boss over worries of cuts to Safer Neighbourhood Teams

Lynne Featherstone and Cllr Martin Newton with acting Borough Commander Chris BarclayPolice bosses in Haringey have given assurances that local residents’ safety concerns will be paramount to any decision on the future of Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNT) following a meeting, last week, with Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr Martin Newton. The Acting Borough Commander, Chris Barclay, also assured Liberal Democrats that Muswell Hill Police Station will not close unless an equal or better alternative with front counter provision is in place.
 
Commander Barclay was presented with a collection of residents’ views on policing priorities, after local Liberal Democrats surveyed local people on their views about SNT provision. The Liberal Democrats issued their own survey on SNTs, as the Metropolitan police launched a review of the ward based teams.

In the survey, local people highlighted issues around perceptions of safety, and the knock-on effect on local crime rates if SNT numbers were cut.

A particular preference was expressed for more police presence late at night in areas like Muswell Hill Broadway. The Acting Borough Commander assured the Liberal Democrats that residents’ views will be considered before any changes are made to Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“The Safer Neighbourhood Teams have done wonders for our local community. With well-known faces out on the beat, and a high police visibility, residents clearly feel safer, and crime goes down.

“Residents echoed the same sentiment in many of the survey responses: ­ they value and cherish their local police team, and don’t want to see their numbers cut.

“I’m delighted with the assurances that local people’s views will be given full consideration before any changes to SNTs take place, and I’m equally delighted with his assurances on Muswell Hill Police station!”

Haringey Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson Cllr Martin Newton adds:

“These are uncertain times, and the police have had a cut to their budget. We understand that tough decisions have to be made, but at the same time we feel that it’s critical that top bosses understand just how much the local community value their Safer Neighbourhood Teams to keep crime down in their local area.

“I believe we have given the police a strong message today: local policing matters, and local people don’t want to see any drastic changes to their local Safer Neighbourhood Teams.”

Liberal Democrats demand action as CCTV post remains vacant

Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson Cllr Ron Aitken has demanded action after it was revealed that a key Haringey Council crime-fighting post has been left vacant for several months.

Minutes from Haringey’s Safer Communities Executive Board (18 February 2010) show that the post of CCTV Manager has been vacant for several months at a time when residents have been demanding measures to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. The funds allocated for the post have been used to provide temporary cover, but the Liberal Democrats say the lack of a permanent post-holder has caused other initiatives to be stalled.

Cllr Ron Aitken, Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson, comments:

“The lack of a permanent CCTV Manager is affecting other aspects of Haringey Council’s crime-fighting strategy.

“For example, a request by the Queen’s Road Neighbourhood Watch for a CCTV camera, to watch a notorious crime spot near Bowes Park over-ground station, was turned down.”

Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green adds:

“It’s really worrying that for months there has been no permanent staff member in such a crucial post – the effective use of CCTV does not simply depend on the cameras but on the people who manage and monitor them.

“With evidence that other aspects of the crime fighting strategy may be suffering as a result, Haringey Council needs to get its act together and recruit a permanent member of staff as soon as possible.”

Wood Green police station: latest plans

Wood Green police station film screenshotHere’s my latest column for the Ham & High:

The police are planning to expand their presence in Wood Green – keeping the existing police station in use but also moving the front counter to the Fishmongers Arms (right next to the Civic Centre, closer to the centre of Wood Green, closer to where people congregate and closer to the crime hotspots).

I was impressed with the new front counter – not yet in use – when I went with Cllr Robert Gorrie (Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Haringey Council) to see it and meet the local Commander, Dave Grant.

Having staffed and open police stations in the heart of our community is central to the fight against crime and the fear of crime. It gives us a police service that knows its community and whose community knows it. That’s why I fought for so longer to get the Muswell Hill front counter reopened.

The new front counter in Wood Green is much better equipped and located than the current one. It’s all ready to go – brand, spanking new – and has the advantage that local people would be able to use the front counter to report their problems in a much more peaceful and calm atmosphere – no longer needing to mix with the less salubrious side of station life with those who have to report to the police station, and so on.

If the existing building is also kept in use for police services, such as cells and a base for patrol cars etc, then this means overall a bigger and better police presence in Wood Green. Hurrah!

If!

We need to be sure that moving the front counter doesn’t become an excuse to cut back, sell off property – and leave us with fewer services. That has to be the concern in these times of economic uncertainty.

And then there’s still the question of exactly what policing will be done from the existing police station building. The police have promised a public consultation on that – including the possibility of moving the front counter back from the Fishmongers Arms, if it isn’t a success in its new location and local people want it moved back.

We also need to make sure that any building work on the old police station preserves its historic front, which is a real architectural gem that adds to our community. Last time the police made proposals for the station the local community was rightly up in arms at the insensitive architectural designs. That planning application was withdrawn and we await a new one, due to be submitted in the autumn.

So we should be due two chances to have our say – the public consultation on police services in the area and also the planning application for the Victorian police station building.

But ahead of that the police want to try out starting to use the new facilities at the Fishmongers Arms – moving their front counter service from the existing police station to the new location.

I know some people have been skeptical about this, worried that it’s a way for the police to preempt those two chances for us to have our say later in the year.

But if it is a genuine trial, making use of new expanded premises and with a commitment written in blood that the final decisions will only come after we’ve been consulted – then it means we get to try out the new services sooner and it makes for a better decision in the end if there’s some practical experience to draw on.

So this is a debate which will run for some time – and do let me know your own views.

You can also watch my latest film about Wood Green police station:

Liberal Democrats welcome news of 24 hour Wood Green police station

Following a successful campaign by Liberal Democrats to improve police services in Wood Green, the local police have agreed to re-open Wood Green police station 24 hours a day. The news was revealed in a question to Liberal Democrat crime spokesperson, Councillor Ron Aitken, in this week’s Full Council, after Lib Dems expressed concern about the High Road police station front counter only being open until 9 pm.

Lynne Featherstone MP and the Liberal Democrat team have been campaigning for better police services for Wood Green residents and launched a survey in the Autumn to understand residents’ priorities on policing in the area.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“This is fantastic news for Wood Green residents. A lot of crime happens at night, but for some time now, local people have been poorly served by a barely operational police station.

“It’s so important just to know that the police will be there for you at any time, day or night, if something should happen. I think this will make a huge difference.”

Cllr Ron Aitken, Liberal Democrat crime spokesperson, adds:

“Being out on the streets, talking to local people, it’s clear having a 24 hour police station is high up on the wish list, so I really welcome this terrific news!”

“Enough is enough” on betting shops say Liberal Democrats

Horse racingHaringey Council should take swift and firm action to halt the surge in betting shops in the Wood Green area to limit crime and anti-social behaviour, local Liberal Democrats have said .

Speaking out against applications to Haringey Council for three new betting shops in Wood Green High Road and Green Lanes, Cllr Ron Aitken, Liberal Democrat Crime spokesperson, has said that Haringey Council needs to urgently lobby the Government to change the law to enable councils to limit the number amount of betting shops in an area.

Recent statistics revealed by the Liberal Democrats show that 735 incidents of criminal damage occurred in Haringey’s betting shops in the past two years as well drug related and public order offences.

Cllr Ron Aitken, Liberal Democrat Crime Spokesperson, comments:

“Statistics indicate that Haringey’s betting shops are a source of significant crime and antisocial behaviour, as well as being a nuisance to local residents.

“We are not against people having a flutter but enough is enough. Haringey Council needs the power to declare that no more betting shops should be allowed in Wood Green or Green Lanes.

“Labour need to lobby their own Government to give local communities the power to curb the ever increasing numbers of betting shops.”

Cllr Fiyaz Mughal (Noel Park) adds:

“The explosion of gambling and gaming venues blight Wood Green’s main shopping street and they do little to support the local economy

“It is time to call a time out and say that enough is enough. Such venues cannot be allowed to grow exponentially whilst the local authority is virtually powerless to stop them. I would be delighted to hear from any Noel Park residents who would like to help us take this campaign forward.”

Lynne Featherstone MP adds:

“I will be contacting the Government Minister responsible for the planning laws that leave Haringey Council and local residents powerless to stop betting shops taking over our high streets.”