Police chiefs grilled over crime plan and station closures (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Deputy Mayor for policing Stephen Greenhalgh joins Met Police Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne and Redbridge Borough Commander Sue Williams to discuss MOPAC Crime and Policing plan at Redbridge Town Hall
Police chiefs were grilled by concerned members of the public at a meeting in Redbridge Town Hall last night.
Around 120 people gathered to talk to a panel including Deputy Mayor for policing Stephen Greenhalgh, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne and Redbridge Borough Commander Sue Williams.
They were in the borough as part of a public consultation on The Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime's (MOPAC) plans to save £500million from the Met's budget by 2015.
The front counters of Wanstead and Woodford police stations have been earmarked for closure as part of the London-wide plan.
But Mr Greenhalgh pointed to proposals to increase police numbers in Redbridge by 86 and double the number of Safer Neighbourhood officers by 2015 as evidence that it would make policing more effective.
And he told the meeting: “This is a golden opportunity for the Met to reconnect with Londoners.”
Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne added: “Why come into a tired old police station when we can come and see you in the comfort of your own home or place of work?”
Borough commander Sue Williams said she was working hard to secure a permanent base in the west of the borough and reiterated that she thought the Crime and Police Plan was good for Redbridge.
But many of those at the meeting were more sceptical.
Helen Zammett of the Wanstead and Snaresbrook Residents Association said she was worried about how police based outside Wanstead would respond to emergencies in the west of the borough if they had to negotiate the busy A406 to get there.
And Geoff Horsnell of the Wanstead Society told Mr Greenhalgh: “Wanstead is unique in that it is separated from the rest of the borough by three major roads.
“That gives the criminal fraternity an easy escape route.”
Mr Greenhalgh agreed that the issue of deployment would have to be looked at in greater detail before any firm commitment to close stations was made.
But he cited low footfall figures at Wanstead and Woodford Police stations as justification for the closure of their front counters.
Snaresbrook councillor Sue Nolan said those figures were misleading.
She explained: “The reason why those stations have not had the same numbers of people coming in is that they are never open.
“We have the M11, the A12, the A406 and two underground stations. We are worried in Wanstead that these plans will be a field day for criminals.”
Redbridge resident Gerry Gable was concerned about proposals to replace police stations with alternative public access points.
He said: “Has nobody given a thought to confidentiality? How hard will it be for women who have suffered sexual assault and abuse to talk to someone in a library or supermarket?”
That seemed to rile Mr Greenhalgh who said: “I want to disabuse the idea that we are asking the victims of sexual violence to report crimes while they get some veg in the supermarket.
“We are looking for safe and secure places, but that is not the Victorian police station where victims step through the same front door as someone who is responding to bail.”
Mr Greenhalgh and Assistant Commisioner Byrne are visiting every borough in London as part of the consultation.
To view the proposals for Redbridge in more detail and have your say click here.
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