For the second time in 18 months, a colleague of mine has been stopped by the police when out with me in Harrow Town Centre - for taking photos.
He took a picture of me standing by the Harrow bus station. For this he was stopped by two transport PCSOs under the Terrorism Act.
This was a waste of police time. As it is, I took the rap for it (we gave my name instead of his), as I don't see that someone should have to have their name put up on a police database for doing me the favour of taking an innocent photo.
I am deeply concerned that innocent people seem to be stopped regularly,while criminals have a less than two per cent chance of being convicted for the crimes they commit. To add to this, there are some specific local concerns.
1. This was outside Harrow bus station. The PCSOs revealed that they were all on shift at the same time.For some reason, neighbour-hood/ transport PCSOs all appear to do their shifts at the same time, and leave the rest of the day uncovered. There were about six of them about. Why couldn't they have had smaller teams, covering the whole 24 hours? I've had constituents legitimately complain about this very point.
2. At this same place (but on a different day), a resident of Harrow was beaten unconscious while waiting at Harrow Bus Station on New Year's Eve. Where were the police then? Presumably they were all off shift. Also, these PCSOs hadn't even heard about this assault. Surely they should know about crime on their patch?
3. On the same day (but in a different part of Harrow) a resident of Harrow died after being found in the street after an apparent mugging.
It is a poor use of resources to flood an area with police only for a few hours and then leave it unpoliced later on the same day. It is also a poor reflection on police priorities that innocent photographers are stopped under terrorism laws, while studies show that 51 per cent of crimes in London are not even investigated by the police.
I am however delighted that the police in Harrow have a relatively good record.
The council has also invested extra money on top of the Metropolitan Police budget to ensure we have extra PCSOs, particularly for the town centre. With their leadership, the extra support we are getting from Boris, and a concerted effort from a new government in the future, I am confident that things will get better.
DR RACHEL JOYCE
Parliamentary Candidate Harrow West