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Police chiefs quizzed over Islington neighbourhood team fears

08:25 27 January 2013

Members of the Highbury West Safer Neighbourhoods Team patrol Blackstock Road. From left: Sgt Rob O’Connor, Pc Neil Hodgman, PCSO Andrew Goodwin and Pc Wesley Pettitt.

Members of the Highbury West Safer Neighbourhoods Team patrol Blackstock Road. From left: Sgt Rob O’Connor, Pc Neil Hodgman, PCSO Andrew Goodwin and Pc Wesley Pettitt.

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Police chiefs were questioned over impending cuts that have sparked fears over the future of neighbourhood policing in Islington.

Councillors criticise the new draft police and crime plan proposed by the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime at a public consultation event at Islington Assembly Hall in Upper Street, Islington, on Tuesday.

MOPAC is proposing to reduce police station opening hours and sell off buildings as part of a bid to save £400million from the Met’s budget over the four years to the end of 2016.

But the change that has provoked the greatest concern is the reorganising of Safer Neighbourhoods Teams, which Islington Council’s crime chief says amounts to “dismantling”.

Under the new system, there will be just one dedicated Pc to each ward and one “named” sergeant in charge, with other officers covering multiple wards.

Currently, each ward has an SNT comprising three dedicated PCSOs, two Pcs and one sergeant.

Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Coucil’s executive member for community safety, said: “Our SNTs have already lost officers over the past two years, with half of them now forced to share a sergeant, but this amounts to the dismantling of the teams.

“They are dismantling the system that has proven to work over the past decade and it’s like stepping backwards in history.

“We need the SNTs and they do a great job, especially in some of the more high pressure areas like Finsbury Park.

“There are people going to prison right now because of their well-informed neighbourhood policing. They know where the local villainy lives, their habits, what time they get up and who their parents are. It seems the Mayor is happy to dismantle all of that.”

Cllr Martin Klute, a Labour member for St Peter’s ward, said: “At the moment we have six familiar faces in each ward, but we’re going to have just one. It ain’t broke, so why are we trying to fix it?”

Deputy Mayor for Policing Stephen Greenhalgh and the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne presented MOPAC’s proposals at the consultation.

Islington residents are also faced with the prospect of only one station, Islington Police Station in Tolpuddle Street, open to the public 24 hours if the plans go through. Holloway Police Station in Hornsey Road, Holloway, will no longer operate a night-time counter service.

Mr Greenhalgh said residents rarely go to the counter overnight any more. He also insisted Islington will have more officers on the streets, because the shake-up will see senior positions deleted in favour of Pcs.

MOPAC says that while they may not all be assigned to just one ward, there will be an extra 92 neighbourhood officers in Islington in 2016, compared with the levels in 2011.

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