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Coronavirus: Islington and Camden’s top cop vows there will always be someone to answer 999 calls during Covid-19 pandemic

PUBLISHED: 12:58 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:38 16 March 2020

Ch Supt Raj Kohli [right]. Picture: Central North BCU

Ch Supt Raj Kohli [right]. Picture: Central North BCU

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The top cop in Islington and Camden has vowed that there will always be someone to answer the phone if you dial 999 during the coronavirus pandemic.

The top cop in Islington and Camden has vowed that there will always be someone to answer the phone if you dial 999 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ch Supt Raj Kohli says that, even if some of his officers are forced off work due to Covid-19, there will still be enough cops to keep people safe.

Ch Supt Kohli, who leads the Central North Basic Command Unit (BCU) covering Islington and Camden, also suspects the crime rate will fall over the coming months as more people stay inside.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said ministers are planning to give police officers the power to arrest people with coronavirus (Covid-19) who are not self-isolating.

The government has also warned that up to one fifth of the UK workforce could be off at the pandemic's peak.

This has led to reports that, in the worst case scenario, a depleted police force may only respond to the most serious 999 calls, such as for life-threatening situations, homicides and domestic or sexual violence.

'We have got our own local plans in place,' Ch Supt Kohli told this paper. 'It's interesting times. It's kind of like you sit here and think: 'Is this really happening? Because it doesn't feel like it'.

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'So the plan is that we will retain as close to business as usual as possible, so what I have said is, if we start to lose officers through either direct or indirect illness, then we will make sure that if you call 999 there's always someone answering. [...]

He added: 'My priority will be if they hit 999 those calls will be answered, my vision is 100 per cent of calls will be answered. Of course, if it gets really difficult, this won't happen.'

This means Ch Supt Kohli will, potentially, have to move officers around within the BCU to ensure there are always enough call handlers.

He says the reinforcements could be drawn from safer neighbourhoods teams, the CID criminal investigations department (CID) or safeguarding units.

He added: 'What that means, if you have been taken from the CID team to do responses, it means your responses could take a few days longer [for less serious crimes], and this is the worse case scenario we are talking about. We don't know what the worst case scenario is, we always plan for the worst and hope for the best.'

He added: 'We have no intention of allowing crime to run away from us, in fact, I might be being naive, but even those who decide criminality is the path of choice might stop a little bit. It might well be people stop to go anywhere. I travel on the underground to work and it feels like it's half-term. Crime will still happen but I don't sense that it's going to be looting or anything like that. Standard crime will happen but I don't think it will spike.

Addressing claims that murder investigations that aren't 'time critical' could be put on hold while police respond to real-time situations, Ch Supt Kohli added: 'If this is a murder investigation we are investigating it. I think what has probably been misunderstood is that if a murder officer has not got a murder to investigate, we might say: 'Can I have that person for a couple of weeks helping us our in our non-murder incidents?' We are currently not stopping murder investigations, if someone's died we will get justice for the family.'

As of 9am yesterday there were 1,391 positive cases of Covid-19 in the UK and 35 people had died of the virus, according to Public Health England.

Of these, 22 cases were in Camden and four were in Islington.

See our Facebook page for coronavirus updates from across north London.

Are you an Islington resident who's tested positive for coronavirus? Do you think you've got the virus? Contact Lucas at the Gazette newsdesk on 07785 616244


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