Council meetings

Agenda item

Lewisham metropolitan police service update


4.1 Chief Superintendent Kate Halpin (Borough Commander, Metropolitan Police Service, Lewisham) introduced herself and presented information to the Committee. The following key points were noted:


·      There will be some changes to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) due to decisions in the Comprehensive Spending Review from autumn 2015 and due to the newly elected Mayor of London. Plans were still being developed.

·      The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime had recently outlined her priorities for the MPS at a meeting at the Greater London Authority. These priorities were: serious youth violence and knife crime; hate crime; and organised criminal networks. These priorities align to a large extent with the priorities set out in the Safer Lewisham Plan.

·      A new police and crime plan for the MPS was expected to be published in the autumn for consultation.

·      Lewisham was one of the few boroughs that have reached the targets set by the previous Mayor of London, known as the 20:20:20 challenge. This challenge consisted of targets to: reduce key neighbourhood crimes by 20%; boost public confidence in the police by 20%; and cut costs by 20%. The key neighbourhood crimes were defined as: burglary; vandalism (criminal damage); theft from and theft of motor vehicles; violence with injury; robbery; and theft from the person. As Lewisham had met these targets, this had meant a reduction of about 5,000 and 6,000 victims of crime in the borough in 4 years. The detection rate for Lewisham had gone up by 1,5%.

·      Lewisham Police service had been working with GPs, social workers and staff from Greenwich University to tackle domestic abuse. Some support was being offered by research staff from the office of Len Duvall OBE AM. The criminal justice system did not always offer the best solutions to instances of domestic abuse, which is why cooperation with different services was helpful.

·      The MPS had been tasked with finding £500m of savings over the next 4 years in the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review. Some plans developed before the election of the Greater London Assembly and Mayor of London had been based on merging borough police services. This would mean there would no longer be one Borough Commander with responsibility for the police service in the borough. The suggestion for South East London had been that the services in Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley could be merged. The current London Deputy Mayor for Policing had indicated plans for an extensive consultation on proposals to remodel police services in London.

·      One area where Lewisham police could improve was access to public for its services and the work being done. At the end of the calendar year there should be an improved website which should allow more functionality online for residents. MPS had helped to develop a mobile phone application for reporting hate crime. It had increased the numbers of recorded crime by making it easier to report crimes.

·      Police Community Support Officers were the most diverse part of the MPS’s workforce with a higher percentage of people from BAME backgrounds, a higher percentage of women and a higher percentage of older people. They did important work that complemented the work done by police officers and often serves as experts on the neighbourhoods they worked in. 

·      A number of serious violent incidents have happened in the borough in recent months. However, over the last 4 years, serious youth violence has decreased in the area. 219 incidents of serious youth violence were reported in 2015 – 2016, where in 2011 – 2012 this number was 329. A roundtable had been organised chaired by the Cabinet Member for Community Safety to discuss these recent incidents in more depth. The MP for Lewisham and Deptford had set up a Youth Violence Commission to consider the root causes of youth violence across the country. The Lewisham Safer Neighbourhood Board had organised a youth conference the Friday before the Committee meeting which had been attended by 70 to 80 young people. 

·      A spike in hate crime had been reported after the 23 June. 4 incidents had been reported in the borough which were seen to have a direct link to the EU referendum. Residents were encouraged to report any incidents. The police were also carefully monitoring whether had an increases in homophobic or islamophobic incidents following recent world events.

·      Following the murder of Jo Cox MP, the police had been mindful of the security of local MPs. A review of their security arrangements had taken place a couple of months before the murder as part of the police’s routine work.

·      The London police commissioner’s commitment to the role of police schools officers was welcomed.


4.2 Kate Halpin and Geeta Subramaniam answered questions from the Committee. The following key points were noted:


·      Work was being done to try to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG). The police had engaged with the local mosque about this to encourage reporting as VAWG was a particular risk for Muslim women. Work had been done in local schools to educate young people about consent and to prevent online abuse. At a recent head teachers’ forum, a number of head teachers of primary schools had requested that such workshops also be provided at their primary schools.

·      The community payback scheme was now run by a privatised section of the probation service. Contact with the providers of this scheme could be improved. Learning needed to take place across the MPS on how to engage with victims of crimes. For example, victims could be asked for an impact statement when the crime was being reported instead of sometimes months after the event.

·      Each borough’s police service were now asked to provide daily statistics of reported hate crime to the central MPS office. The situation was being carefully monitored. Hate crime was deemed to be a very underreported crime for a borough as diverse as Lewisham. Residents were encouraged to report any incident, and could use a specially developed mobile phone application called Self Evident.

·      The targets for police attendance after emergency calls were 15 minutes for immediate situations and 60 minutes for calls that were deemed ‘soon’. In trying to meet these targets there always needed to be a consideration of the quality of the response provided alongside the need for a quick response.

·      The deployment of SNT officers was centrally controlled by the MPS.

·      There is no one crime of child sexual exploitation (CSE) that an individual can be charged with. What is defined as CSE was captured in statistics under other crimes, such as kidnapping or sexual assault. The numbers for cases that would be marked as CSE were small across the MPS and the numbers for Lewisham were in keeping with comparable London Boroughs. There are cases that consist of children being exploited by bullying or threats that would not be classified as CSE because there was no sexual element present, and would therefore not . The focus on CSE could obscure some of these cases.


4.3 The Committee made a number of comments. The following key points were noted:


·       The Committee was pleased with the expressed support for the role of PCSOs by the borough commander.

·       It would be good to get an idea of the staffing levels for Safer Neighbourhood Teams. When staffing levels become very low, the impact of illness including long term sick leave on staffing levels would be much greater.

·       It could be difficult to classify what crimes had been committed as both the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts made their own independent judgements on each case.  

·       The Committee felt it made sense to have local police forces follow the same boundaries as London Borough for administrative and bureaucratic reasons.

·       The Committee would welcome regular attendance by the borough commander to their meetings, and requested a written report for the next attendance by the borough commander with statistics for crime in the borough as well as a short outline of any key issues at that point.

·       It could be difficult to arrange security for Councillors at their surgery due to a lack of resources in both the Council and the Lewisham police service. Security could be increased by organising SNTs surgeries at the same time and place as Councillor surgeries.

·       The Committee was interested in the feedback received from young people who attended the SNB youth conference. Information on how to contact the police could be provided to young people by inserting a page in their secondary school logbooks.   


4.4 RESOLVED: that the update from the metropolitan police borough commander be noted, that the borough commander be thanked for her attendance, that the borough commander’s offer to attend the Committee meeting regularly be accepted, and that the following of the Committee’s views be referred to Mayor and Cabinet:


The Committee was interested to hear about the plans expressed by London’s new Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime to run an extensive consultation on proposals to remodel police services in London. The Committee was concerned about proposals, developed before the 2016 London mayoral election, for a potential merger of the 32 Borough Command Units across London. This would mean that there would not one borough commander responsible to policing in the borough of Lewisham.   


The Committee expressed its concern at these plans, as cooperation between local authorities and the metropolitan police is strengthened by having the boundaries of local police forces in London correspond with borough boundaries. 


The Committee welcomed the support for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) expressed by the Lewisham police borough commander. The Committee values the work done by PCSOs and would welcome an opportunity to increase their numbers.


The Committee requested that they were formally asked to comment on any consultation responses on behalf of the Council to plans by the Mayor of London or Greater London Assembly for changes to the discharge of crime and disorder function in the borough.


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