Police numbers in Dudden Hill are simply too low. My ward currently has only one Sergeant, one PC and one PCSO as part of the dedicated Ward Safer Neighbourhood Team at the moment.
Last night, I was on a joint collaborative ward walkabout with Welsh Harp Ward to investigate cross-ward issues in the Neasden area. Residents are also welcome to join me this Sunday with the Dudden Hill Safer Neighbourhood Team for a walkabout in the Neasden Shopping Centre area at 9.30am. The issues that we are trying to solve simply need more resources.
There are currently three different area with differing problems that we are trying to deal with at the moment. In Neasden, we have the street drinking and anti-social behaviour, in the Dollis Hill part of the Ward, I was informed last night that burglary has spiked up again and the Church Road area has one of the largest crime rates in Brent at the sub-ward level.
Given the lack of resources being afforded to our local police, I will ensure that ward working money is given to crime initiatives as I have done in previous years. The doubling of Ward Working funding will go a long way to help me, my remaining co-Councillor and the Dudden Hill Safer Neighbourhood Team address specific crime and anti-social behavioural issues in Dudden Hill.
It was great to have the opportunity to ask questions to Brent’s Borough Commander Matt Gardner last night at Brent Town Hall.
I took the opportunity firstly to thank him for the community reassurance role he played after the tragic fire on Sonia Gardens in my ward last year.
Some of the challenges that the Police are facing in Brent are profound but they are determined as are the Council in delivering the best for our residents despite the challenges we have with resources. Our job is to get on with what we have.
Last night it was revealed that Brent has the largest ‘success rate’ in London when it comes to stop and search. The police are adopting an intelligence based approach to stop and search targeting hotspot crime areas.
They are doing a lot more cross border work which is crucial in areas that neighbour other Boroughs.
We are already 6 sergeants down. Numbers should be ok for PCs. After next week there will be 35 PCSOs in Brent. Based on a formula which recommends that amount that a Borough should have in order to effectively police the streets, Brent should have 75 PCSOs. There is no recruitment drive for PCSOs. When asked what the Borough Commander would do about the recruitment of PCSOs, he honestly said there’s nothing he can do and that he’ll continue to do his job and manage to effectively police Brent with the resources he has.
He admitted that there will have to be a review into what the Police do and that some things they may just have to stop doing. He addressed the perception that we will be short of police in Brent over the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We will actually get more resources in terms of police officer numbers because we are an Olympic Borough with the Wembley National Stadium and Wembley Arena hosting sporting events.
The Borough Commander said that 84% of his budget is spent on wages and given that there is a 20% to the Brent police budget, it’s not rocket science to see that there are challenges. He drew comparisons to the cuts that Brent Council is making to libraries and said that the Police may have to look into the future of Willesden Police station and whether they can afford to have it. There’s only so much that can be saved from cutting back from buying paper clips.
When I asked whether frontline staff were spending time doing back office functions such as administrative tasks, the Borough Commander replied “not yet”, but that he could see it possibly happening in the future, which is why the Police had to look at what they do.
The challenges that the Police and the Council are facing means that there will be greater partnership and pooling of resources between the two.
In Brent, we know this is true as we have lost Police Sergeants in Brent as all were made to reapply for their jobs so that spending targets could be met.
At a Brent Council Partnership and Place Committee Meeting I revealed that even losses to back office staff to the domestic violence team in Brent meant that frontline staff were spending time they would otherwise spend helping people, doing paperwork and desk office functions.
The anwers I received reveals that even back office cuts has a profound impact on frontline services.
I have made strong representations to the Borough Commander following the loss of Dudden Hill Safer Neighbourhood Team staff. Coalition and Mayoral cuts to police budgets are leading to recruitment freezes in police numbers which means that there are currently no plans to replace members of staff. I am therefore worried that given the loss of full time staff, residents in Dudden Hill may be permanently deprived of around 2,142 hours of frontline police hours a year. That is something I do not want for my residents. Our safety is not a price worth paying.
I am particularly concerned given the high crime rate in parts of Dudden Hill Ward – particularly the Church Road area which according to Metropolitan Police Crime Map figures had a crime rate of 21.12 in October 2010 which is more than double the 9.52 average crime rate in Brent.
I am fighting to make sure that Dudden Hill is represented and I am actively making a strong case to the Borough Commander to divert more resources for my ward.