BORIS Johnson's policing deputy said that police station closures will allow more officers to return to the beat and tackle crime.
Stephen Greenhalgh, who quit as Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader to take up the post as the Mayor of London's police chief last year, returned to the borough on Tuesday (05) to discuss proposals to close the front counter at Shepherd’s Bush police station.
The 24-hour service at Hammersmith station would be retained, while opening hours at Fulham station would be reduced to day time only under a major ‘reform and restructuring’ of the Metropolitan Police Service to save £500million by 2015.
Mr Greenhalgh (pictured) said: “We want a London that is not just the greatest big city on earth but also the safest and a police force that is the most respected and committed and the most loved in the UK.”
Borough Commander Lucy D’Orsi and Met Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne also answered questions about proposed changes to the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams which would see the current model slimmed to just one sergeant, PC and PCSO per ward with support from a wider pool of SNT officers.
Mr Byrne said: “This is not about marginalising SNTs. It’s the opposite. We want to put neighbourhood policing at the heart of what we do.”
He added: “Buildings don’t catch burglars – we want more officers out on the streets fighting crime.”
It is estimated less than two people per hour visit stations in the borough to report crime.
Changes would see 2,600 officers moved into neighbourhood policing across the Met – 92 more in the borough to 139. Teams would work extended hours from 8am to midnight Monday to Thursday and longer on weekends, and better use of technology and accountability would create a ‘return to beat policing’.
Ms D’Orsi disregarded concerns from residents that there would be less dedicated officers per ward, saying it created ‘flexibility’ to mirror the fact different wards had different levels of crime.
She added: “I’m excited about having more boots on the beat, and the flexibility means we can make sure officers are in the right place at the right time to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
“It gives us an opportunity to build on our successes, we have some of the lowest crime rates.”
David Miller, chairman of Hammersmith and Fulham Neighbourhood Watch, said there was 'much to be commended' in proposals to improve relationships between police and the public through more beat policing. He said for the public, who associated police officers with police stations, there was 'confusion between the closure of buildings and the closure of front counters' and asked the Borough Commander to reassure residents that police officers would not be cut.
Deputy council leader Greg Smith welcomed proposals to get more bobbies on the beat.
He said after the meeting: “The Police do an excellent job in H&F – and crime continues to fall year on year – but we can do better. Currently there are too many officers sat in buildings waiting for people to come in and report a crime.
“Life has changed since Victorian times and in the 21st century many people report crime on their mobile phones, by calling 999 or 101, or even online. We welcome the Met’s proposal to get 92 extra beat Police onto our streets, which will mean we have a record number of Police out and about tackling the criminal minority.”
The panel also said investment would be made to modernise Hammersmith police station, officers would make more home visits, alternative public points of contact would be established – a pilot within a Post Office has already been mooted - and policing ward panels would be retained.
* People have until March 6 to respond the consultation. Visit www.london.gov.uk/priorities/mayors-office-policing-and-crime .