The biggest weakness of the current government and Home Office and policing strategy is the lost emphasis on Neighbourhood Watch.
Here in Tower Hamlets for example, funding for Neighbourhood Watches was withdrawn 6/7 years ago and still today, Safer Neighbourhood Police work with TRA on a crime fighting agenda with a diminished capacity.
To explain this when our TRA meets the police matters squeeze in compounded down to 1/2 hour to 45 minutes without sufficient time to discuss anything. A TRA has not commitment to crime fighting as per nature it forms of residential issues like repairs or social activities but has no obligation to engage in crime prevention or fighting. Their commitment may be strong but does not have to be there at all.
With a Neighbourhood Watch you know from the start those people get together with the aim to further relations with the police and to help fight crime and anti-social behaviour.
Nowadays the police work with anyone TRA or Neighbourhood Watch and come to meetings just to be able to address groups of people, which is better than nothing but they now put the emphasis on Safer Neighbourhood Panel meetings, that take place bi-monthly.
These panels can then be swamped with people who wish to cram in all their problems in 2 hours, again without an ability to discuss problems in depth.
It again depends entirely on a community’s wanting to fight crime and making the police alert of problems on how much attention their crime problem gets. If they do not complain the police will not investigate.
I think this is the reason that we are now swamped with drug dealing and many crime issues here in inner London.
It seems that if the community tolerates crime in their midst the police don’t bother that much about it, which is a totally wrong principle.
For example on our Safer Neighbourhood Website there is a note saying that all residents are welcome to the next Safer Neighbour Panel meeting, whilst we get e-mails saying the panels should be restricted to 10 permanent members and those who do not attend 3 times will no longer be eligible to attend. Another contradiction that is not acceptable and shows there is no coherent strategy.
I shall take it up with the police and give them a grilling about that.
I think we need to better commitment to crime fighting and it must be done whether the community wants it or not, because if you do policing on an on-demand basis only, you can get pockets of crime simply because the community is not interested in fighting it.
The funding for Neighbourhood Watches must be re-established, so that those in the community who like to assist police combating crime can build a basis of residents around them to assist in this task.
On Demand Policing is practically what the MET practises now. I think it is a treacherous and not comprehensive enough strategy. I’ll explain what I mean. If you get any group as a majority they may intimate others to be silent and bully others not to report crimes.
So even though the crime takes place, but because no one has the courage to report it, the crimes get tolerated.
In the current system Safer Neighbourhood Police work in the principle, that the more reports they get about crime, the more emphasis they put on solving it.
I think that is the reason why we have so much drug dealing going on, because those using drugs would not want to report it and those not using drugs would not know about the problem as they are not involved. People no longer peep out of windows behind the curtains, they watch television or use their computers.
Now the UK is Europe’s cocaine hotspot (according to a UN report) and police will have to change their tactics and stop relying on residents reporting dealing.
Police must have a policing standard apart from just the crimes that get reported. How about those that don’t?
We do not have enough police patrols, old-fashioned policing methods ensured a permanent police presence in our neighbourhoods, e.g. police stations, bobbies on the beat.
We need each street patrolled at least once a day in each town to prevent crime settling in and to disperse anti-social groups from our streets.
The current Labour government came up with the Community Crime Fighters idea but alone the name is pretty frigthening, as it implies aggression in more than just the will of wanting to combat crime. The old definiation of Neigbhourhood Watch is a much friendlier name. I have seen that friends of those who are Community Crime Fighters were worried about the well-being, I think this worry is stipulated by the name of Community Crime Fighter, which many may associate with physcial involvement rather than communal discussion and participation. Community Crime Fighters have no policing powers whatsoever, cannot physically get involved in crime fighting and the whole name is misleading.
Community Crime Fighting involves caring for other members of the community, the weak and vulnerable and gather information mostly. The Neighbourhood Watch concept is still used mostly in the counties. Neighbourhood Watch is a much more appropriate name and description for those who gather to assist law obedience.
What we do not want in our community is the vigilante type of attitude that the word Community Crime Fighter really advocates.