Streatham Police Station in threat of being stolen!

It’s not murder most ‘orrible, well not in this case at least, but could be worse over time for our area. We have late-breaking intel from local and outside sources that the Metropolitan Police Service are monitoring footfall at police stations and “front counter facilities” with a view to close the ones that aren’t well used.

As we understand it, the Met, and other police services (“forces” to them) have traditionally monitored footfall at police station and front offices around the country. Sometimes this is to collect data for the Home Office, other times the Met, or regional service, wants to know how effective its “estate” (buildings, IT systems, etc) are being used for resource deployment, or just value for money purposes.

In Streatham, though, we understand we’re in the modst of a perfect storm of resonant events that individually aren’t good, but together could spell the closure of our police base.

Firstly there’s the issue of a new Met Police Commissioner, appointed yesterday. Cressida Dick will now oversee the next phase of the Met’s restructuring that some say has been short-sighted and hsn’t achieved the goals it set out to do, and do so in an era of straitened budgets. Ms Dick is believed to have the political capital inside the Met to do what needs to be done. Reading the Kremlinology on this, as advised by people with more than one decade in the police, suggests more cuts have to be done and under-utilised facilities will be closed, and quickly.

And it’s not just the Met; police sources in Nottingham and Somerset & Avon have confirmed to me that the same is happening there.

Secondly, there’s a good news/bad news situation of a government (Whitehall, not politicians in this case) that has finally discovered the need, and ability, to use data to inform decisionmaking. Blimey, only years (not decades this time) behind the rest of the world, and it’s good to know the mandarins will be using the masses of data accumulated over time to make better decisions. 

But this can go awry in the steep learning curve of getting to grips with  shiny new skills. You see, as the Home Office rolls out a new policy emphasis on data use in decisionmaking, the data itself is normally the last to undergo scrutiny (more on this in a moment!). For Streatham’s purposes, the police base footfall stats will be grossly skewed by its opening hours times (9-5 weekdays, except 12-8 on Thursdays, closed weekends), which are when people are away at work, and criminals are dormant. Naturally footfall will be lower in these conditions. Perhaps this is obvious to us but it should be to everyone concerned.

Thirdly, there’s the second, and specific issue with data – as coders know: “garbage in = garbage out” and as we found last month, having promised mapped crime hotspots from the Met data we collected, we had to backtrack on that as the data from various governemnt sources was rubbish. Going by the data, all crime in Lambeth is in the north and ends at Vassall Road (SW9). If the data perception is there is little to do here in the south of the borough, the Met won;t see any reason to waste money on a front desk operation here. We also know from multiple sources that, anecdotally, the attitude in Lambeth Council is that Streatham is fine and there aren’t serious problems to be concerned about here. Because of this the security resources are concetrated in Brixton, Stockwell and the South Bank.

So what can we do about it? Firstly and most obviously is use the police base. Report things there. If you’ve noticed something that seems suspicious, go report it. Even if nothing is, or even can be, done right away, it will be logged and can be used as corroborating evidence in other investigations. More importantly, in the dhort term, it’s logged as a visit for footfall purposes and shows use. You might think this is gaming the system; firstly though, think about a future in which you have to go to Brixton or tooting to report minor issues, show ID for some reason, or report non-emergency issues that need a named contact (see our article on fraud on page 34).  If you’re in ther area, go in, ask a question and collect a flyer. Register your bike; sign up for a safer neighbourhoods panel, do something that lets the receptionist use the computer thus logging a visit. 

We will fight the fight for opening hours and personnel, but first we need to save our police base. No one is going to do it for us. It’s important and we won’t miss it until it’s not there anymore. But like Pratts, Caesars the old police station and other Streatham monuments, once they’re gone, they don’t come back.