Sadiq Khan announces only one 24-hour police station to stay open in every London borough

Mayor Sadiq Khan

LONDON: Mayor Sadiq Khan has confirmed that more than half of London’s 73 remaining police front counters are to close. He announced controversial plansto keep just one 24-hour police station open to the public in every borough.
Under the radical plans, 37 police stationsface imminent closure, with many of the buildings sold off to help raise £165 million in capital.
They include those in crime “hotspots” such as the West End and busy parts of London including Peckham, Edmonton and Stoke Newington. A further four – in Barking, Bexley, Pinner and Ruislip – are still under consideration.
Meanwhile plans to open a new police station near Grenfell Tower early next year, for two years only, are to be discussed with the local community. The Met Police and Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime have been looking at police station closures for more than a year. Mr Khan said police officers would continue to patrol in crime hotspots so they could reach the scene of an emergency quickly. Dedicated neighbourhood police – whose number will be doubled by the end of this year – will be based at new ward-level hubs closer to communities.
They will hold sessionsin locations like leisure centres, libraries and town halls, replacing the system of “counter points”. Nine communities which are over an hour from their nearest front counter will get two sessions a week so residents can meet officers face-to-face. When Boris Johnson cut front counters in 2013, Mr Khan criticised the move and suggested Londoners could be forced to report crime at police “contact points” in McDonald’s restaurants.
Under the Labour mayor’s plans, there will be more focus on telephone services, which account of 70 per cent of crime reporting in London, and a new online reporting service. Mr Khan blamed the changes – which will save £8 million – on Government cuts to police funding. Scotland Yard has argued that just 8 per cent of crimes were reported at police station front counters in 2016, down from 22 per cent a decade ago. Mr Khan said: “Keeping Londonerssafe is my number-one priority, and supporting officers out on the beat in our communities is more important than keeping open buildingsthat are simply not used by the vast majority of the public.
“Nevertheless, I understand and share some of the very legitimate concerns of Londoners about these closures. That is why we held the widest possible consultation with public meetings in every London borough and we have listened very carefully to the feedback”. Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, added: “The most effective place for our officers to be is out on the streets. Be that on patrol responding to the public, proactively out tackling crime on operations or in their communities forging stronger, better links gaining vital local information”. However, the plans were certain to upset local MPs and councillors – including those in the Labour party.
Labour MP for Barking, Margaret Hodge, described the proposal for her area as “completely outrageous and unacceptable”. She added: “By deciding to keep the Dagenham station open and then consulting on closing the BarkingTown centre presence the Met are simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. “It’s a pyrrhic victory for Dagenham at the expense of no service for Barking. That is not on. It is not fair and it won’t help the fight against crime”.