Ye Olde Greenwich Mystery: Safer Neighbourhood Teams

I don’t know if you saw the row yesterday about cuts to police budgets, including the scrapping of something called the Policing Pledge brought in by the last government. Did you know much about it? I didn’t, I remember seeing ads for it but never being inspired to find out more.

One of the big worries about policing cuts, particularly in London, is that they will result in the scrapping of safer neighbourhood teams. Across the capital, each council ward has a team of officers and community support officers dedicated to nailing crime in those areas. And while council wards are fairly unwieldy areas themselves, the strategy is considered a success – people get to see a uniformed presence on the street, and the police get to concentrate their efforts on a relatively small patch. Unsurprisingly, Ken Livingstone’s stuck his face on a campaign to save them.

But what does Ken’s party, Labour, do to help support safer neighbourhood teams, and encourage us to get involved with them? From what I can see here in Greenwich borough, not a lot.

One of the features in the now-binned Policing Pledge was that safer neighbourhood teams should hold monthly meetings with residents. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. I never hear from my team of officers in Charlton ward, but there’s a reason for that. Those officers get no help at all in promoting their presence. If they want to deliver a newsletter to people, they have to do it themselves instead of patrolling the streets or chasing up reports of crime. There is actually a Charlton ward newsletter – but it’s buried away on an unseen corner of the Met website.

Of course, there’s an organisation in this borough with a weekly publication with a distribution network the envy of its rivals; with unrivalled reach and a responsibility to promote community good deeds. But when does Greenwich Council use Greenwich Time to regularly inform us about the work of the SNTs? It doesn’t. A single, easily-forgotten pullout in an issue last month was only a token effort. Why aren’t contact details in there each week? It could even just slip the Met’s newsletters inside Greenwich Time – but doesn’t. If Labour is so serious about keeping safer neighbourhood teams, why aren’t councils like Greenwich shouting from the rooftops about them, and how we can get involved?

(When I stood for election earlier this year, I remember getting worked up about the “fact” that the Greenwich Millennium Village – which strikes me as one of the safest places in the area – had its own police surgery, but places like the Caletock Estate, where people were regularly complaining about crime, didn’t. Of course, other places did have these meetings, but the Millennium Village was the only place in the ward where these police surgeries were promoted.)

Not only do the safer neighbourhood teams hold monthly meetings, but they also hold street briefings too. There’s one in August in my road. All of which is good. But without wider promotion and support, these innovations could be the first to be whittled away. Greenwich Labour should realise this – but seems too complacent and too concerned with promoting itself to notice.

I actually found out about these monthly meetings via a political party – the Greenwich Conservatives. Yup, those evil Tories are doing a better job at telling people about police teams they apparently want to get rid of, than the Labour politicians who claim to want to protect them. It’s a funny old world sometimes, isn’t it?