This was the first of 4 public events this year and it was held at the Idea Store in Whitechapel. The event was well attended by invited and pre-booked guests. The panel was composed of Justin Moore, chair, Detective Chief Superintendent Borough Commander Paul Rickett, LBTH Safer Communities Services Head Andy Bamber, Frances Jones from LBTH Preventing Violent Extremism and a representative from Youth Services.
Commander Rickett announced that crime has fallen so low it could not have fallen any lower and I cannot agree with that statement, as any crime is one crime too many. Residents complaint about the confusion with contact telephone numbers and that the too many numbers give services an excuse non activity by blaming calls not being logged. A resident demanded that there be only 2 numbers to call, one for emergencies, e.g. 999 and one for non emergencies instead of the forest of numbers we have now like SNT, housing, 0300. Commander Rickett announced there is to be yet another new number like 101 to call non emergencies.
I asked a question about the reduction of officers on the SNT team. Commander Rickett had explained that there are too many managing sergeants on SNT teams, hence Bethnal Green North will now have a joined sergeant with another team. I pointed out that this still leaves our team one officer short and despite saying that there will be a reduction in police officers, Commander Rickett said that the police is recruiting again and that officers are in training to fill the teams up again. Yet we are warned that after the Olympics police officers numbers are due to be cut drastically. The police budget is around £800 million pounds and 80%of that budget is police officers.
I cannot see any realistic chance in reducing officers in an area like ours and was pleased to hear that Commander Rickett has changed the shift patterns of SNT officers to stretch further into the night till 2m on some days.
The council runs a joint task force and LBTH has bought in 16 officers, and this task force is further inflated by another 5 officers provided by the Met. We have been told that SNT officers are ring-fenced and cannot be sent to other duties, e.g. in times of strikes, demos or other events. Yet SNT teams are too small to deal with all crime occurring in a ward and so they have to present the commander with a plan to get extra officers allocated to resolve local problems. Also the fact that SNT teams work in shifts and are not always available to return calls is still a problem to many residents.
Yet if crime was as negligible as Commander Rickett pretends we would not need any extra officers to be drafted hin.
Hence I have wanted to ask at the end to involve Frances Jones, who had not been asked any question during the event, but was stopped by Justin Moore because the 8pm time threshold had been reached. However I managed to speak to Frances the vent and telling Frances how good community cohesion can be for the prevention of radicalism as it stimulates a sense of community and encourages residents to report more and therefore prevent crime. When I was at the Neighbourhood Watch week in Wandsworth event, there Superintendent Stuart said that Wandsworth is London’s safest borough because 27% of Wandsworth is covered by Neighbourhood Watches. If it would be trued that crime could not get any lower in Tower Hamlets I am sure Tower Hamlets would be nominated to be the safest borough in London.
I wanted to put it across to those attending that Neighbourhood Watch Association will meet soon again and that being a member of a watch scheme will help to further question policing methods and effectiveness through additional meetings directly at Bethnal Green Police station.
One resident in attendance mentioned being fobbed off by Commander Rickett’s Secretary when she tried to contact him. It is very easy for Commander Rickett to ask people to contact him directly when his secretary takes all the calls. I suggest residents and business are much better off forming Neighbourhood Watches and have direct meetings both with SNT teams and with Neighbourhood Watch Association at the station in presence of police officers to discuss serious problems, which will have a more direct and immediate effect.
Andy Bamber talked a lot about anti-social behaviour and noise and said that there is more work done on the controlled drinking zones and that the Victoria Park festivals are attended by noise control officers who walk around the noise measuring equipment to keep the noise level tolerable.
Frances Jones wonders whether a high percentage of Muslims in an area is enough reason to provide extra funding for anti-terrorism measures in an area. Unfortunately not a lot of Muslims have attended the event to make comments about this. One resident comoplaint that the noise from the Mosque during Ramadam is intolerable too.