Councillor Adam Hug, Westminster Labour Group Police and Crime Spokesperson, has submitted the following response to the Metropolitan Police proposals to close Harrow Road Police Station;
“Harrow Road police station is at the heart of some of the most socio-economically challenged areas of Westminster, with persistent problems of anti-social behaviour and, in a number of locations gang activity, blighting the lives of many residents. Sited in the north-western corner of Westbourne Ward it serves to support not only Westbourne but Queen’s Park and Harrow Road wards that are not within easy reach of services based out of Paddington Green- particularly if police would be required to commute backwards and forwards on public transport.
The proposed loss of Harrow Road police station has caused considerable disquiet in the local community with fears that the quality of local policing will suffer as a result of officers and PCSOs having to spend more time in transit rather than performing their duties and the public further being inconvenienced by the loss of the front counter.
What has made the situation worse locally is the complete failure to run an effective consultation process. Despite repeated requests for information both prior to and during the formal consultation period, both senior local police and MOPAC have been unable to clearly explain the options that were being considered as part of the alternative package. This means that as the consultation process comes to an end neither the public or key stakeholders have been given the information that is required to make a fully informed response.
What information has seeped out is that police have mentioned that they were exploring sites for the creation of ‘refreshment stations’ where they could go to the loo or eat their lunch. It remains unclear whether police would be able to do paperwork at these points or would need to return to Paddington Green for this. Similarly they have mentioned that proposed contact points to replace the front counter would only be open 2 hours per day at maximum. Both these vague alternatives are entirely unsatisfactory, and possibilities for co-location with existing community premises can carry real risks regarding privacy for both those speaking to the police and for existing users of those facilities.
MOPAC have provided no alternatives to the retention of Harrow Road police station to support the vulnerable communities in North Westminster. Therefore it is imperative that Harrow Road Police Station continues to serve the area.
The changes to the safer neighbourhood policing model
We welcome the decision to increase the number of police who will have a link to a particular geographical area as part of overall crime fighting. However the new model as proposed to be implemented in Westminster has a serious flaw that is already undermining confidence- the reduction to one officer per ward delivering the traditional role of a safer neighbourhood team. By taking officers out of their specific wards and transferring them to the new neighbourhood teams with a wider remit will significantly diminish the local intelligence gathering and community engagement role that was at the heart of the previous Safer Neighbourhood Team model. Following on from previous decisions to split sergeants between wards this latest reduction makes it impossible for the police to continue to provide that type of service.
We would strongly ask for more PCs and PCSOs to be retained for traditional, ward specific, safer neighbourhood tasks. At the very least under the new model we would ask that more officers to be specifically assigned to a particular ward, albeit with a wider remit than previous SNT officers, rather than being left to float between clusters of wards. This would do much to retain local knowledge and safeguard the relationships between public and police that are essential both for community trust and intelligence gathering.”