April 16, 2019
I am very aware that the recent sequence of murders in Pinner and South Harrow, and a spike in burglaries “aggravated” by the threat of violence, has deeply unsettled many residents across Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. It comes, of course, against a background of increased knife crime across London, which is a source of great worry – not least for parents.
The concern is all the more deeper because this is not normal. The statistics show these are some of the safest wards in London. It is part of the reason why people choose to live here. Yes, we have had spikes in burglaries before, and the police have got on top of them. Yes, aggravated burglaries represents a relatively small percentage of the total number of burglaries, but the violence and brazen nature of it is scaring people.
Another concern I hear is about the response of the police to burglary. A number of constituents have been unimpressed by the follow-up, especially when they have been able to present the police with some potential evidence, for example in the form of CCTV. I know from fellow MPs that this is a concern across London.
Let me summarise what I have done, and then let you know about a public meeting that may be of interest to you:
1. I have taken local concerns about aggravated burglary and the police response to the top of the Metropolitan Police in conversations with Commissioner Cressida Dick; Assistant Commissioner Stephen House and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons, the lead for Local Policing. The issue is very much on their radar screen.
2. I have met with Commander Amanda Pearson, who reports to DAC Mark Simmons, to discuss the operational response to burglary, including aggravated. It is clear that the Met are having to rethink their approach in terms of contact with the public and supervising the quality of investigations.
3. I have been in very regular contact with Chief Superintendent Sara Leach who commands the North West Borough Command Unit (BCU), which covers Pinner. Together we met a group of Pinner residents that are especially concerned about aggravated burglary.
4. I have met with Superintendent Duncan Slade, who leads on burglary and aggravated in the West BCU (which covers Ruislip and Northwood), to discuss the operational response.
5. I have met with Ickenham Neighbourhood Watch, who are generally recognised to be one of the most effective neighbourhood watch groups in London, to discuss their frustrations and learn from their experience, not least in using OWL – the Online watch link which allows police and residents to exchange two way information in a very efficient way – which is not yet available in Harrow.
6. I have met and will continue to meet local residents who are concerned.
This is apart from the work I do as Policing Minister to support the police and to help them end this terrible cycle of serious violence:
- Between 2018/20, the Met Police will have received an additional £272 million of public investment, some of which they are using to recruit 300 additional officers.
- In addition, the Met will receive a share of the additional £100m we have made available to police forces to specifically help their work to counter serious violence. This will help support the team of 400 extra officers in London on the Serious Violence Task Force. We are making it easier to authorise stop and search in designated areas, and have taken through Parliament new legislation that will make it even harder to buy and possess the most dangerous weapons.
- We have made over £200m available for community based prevention work to divert young people away from crime and violence.
More details of our work on serious violence can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/serious-violence-strategy.
From these conversations, I have drawn the following:
1. Despite being stretched, the police are giving the issue the priority it requires. The West and North West BCUs have slightly different operating models but both have significant resources dedicated to “high harm” crime, including aggravated burglary, and both are able to bid for more “central assets” to help with work in targeted areas.
2. North West London represents a significant percentage of total aggravated burglary and appears to be an attractive target – relatively affluent and with relatively easy access to fast road networks. Given that this criminal activity crosses borders, it is imperative that police forces work well together. This appears to be happening.
3. The police and the community need to work together more effectively to make sure that this area becomes a much ‘harder’ target for criminals. Community safety has always depended on that relationship working well.
4. Residents are worried and need reassurance. Police communication and engagement with the community has so far failed to reassure.
With the above in mind, I am convening a public meeting so that residents across the area can engage directly with the senior local police officers in both boroughs who are responsible for the operational response. It will be an opportunity to ask direct questions; seek reassurance that the police are doing everything they can, and to discuss what more we can do together to help make the area safer. At the request of residents, it has been structured as a constituency-wide meeting because a number of wards are affected and the criminals do not respect borough boundaries.
The meeting will be 7pm-8:15pm on Wednesday, 15 May, at Fairfield Hall, Windsor Close, Northwood, HA6 1PD. The police representatives will be led by Superintendent Claire Clark from North West BCU, and by Superintendent Duncan Slade from West BCU. It is anticipated that officers from the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams will be in attendance. Additionally, all ward councillors will be invited.
It would be helpful to know if you were intending to attend – and please do feel free to submit any specific questions in advance. You can contact me at: email@example.com.