Police stations in Lambeth and Southwark set to close amid surge in youth crime

EXCLUSIVE BY TOBY PORTER
toby@slpmedia.co.uk

Two police stations are set to close to the public and officers in eight weeks’ time, at a time when youth crime is soaring.

The Met’s base in Wren Road, Camberwell is set to shut, with its team, mostly of ward officers, being moved to Lambeth police station in Harleyford Road, Vauxhall.

Another station in Kennington Road, Kennington, will also be closed on March 31, with cops based there transferred to Peckham High Street.

The move comes amid a rise of more than 42 per cent in violence crime in Southwark in the last year, the borough which Camberwell covers.

A letter sent to MPs and town halls from the new joint Lambeth and Southwark force on January 21 said: “Camberwell and Kennington were identified as part of the Met estate to be disposed of.

We have just received confirmation from the Estate Programme Board Team that both Camberwell and Kennington will now close on March 31, 2019.

“The last working day for local officers at both these buildings will be Friday, March 15, at which point, both buildings will be taken over by the De-Commissioning Team, prior to final closure on March 31, 2019.

“It has been decided that the remaining police teams, predominantly Dedicated Ward Officers (DWOs), will leave the two stations during the week commencing March 15.

“The DWOs who currently work at Kennington will move to Lambeth which is less than 0.3 miles away.

Those based at Camberwell will move to Peckham police station.

Additionally, some of the teams in the south of Southwark will co-locate with officers from Lambeth and Croydon at Gipsy Hill police station in order to be closer to their wards.

This will also provide greater resilience in terms of proactivity and problem-solving. “There will continue to be two DWOs per ward, as per the MOPAC commitment.

They have been equipped with mobile technology to enable them to work outside of existing police stations.

They will hold a minimum of a one hour community contact session per week per ward for those members of the community preferring face-to-face contact.”

Hundreds of residents signed petitions in 2017 appealing for counters to be kept open. Almost 1,000 people expressed their opposition to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans, unveiled in July 2017.

Reception desks under threat then were at Kennington, Streatham, Catford, Deptford, Peckham and Southwark police stations.

The proposals were drawn up to meet Government funding cuts and to pump £10million back into frontline policing.

More than 800 people signed one petition by England’s Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, who is the opposition leader on Lambeth council and lives in Streatham, calling for the base there to be saved.

Another petition, by Lambeth’s only remaining Conservative, Cllr Tim Briggs, attracted almost 200 supporters.

Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle said: “London is battling the same problems as those raging across the country: a rise in crime on the back of years of cuts to police budgets and officer numbers.

Since 2010, Southwark has lost over 400 police officers and PCSOs.

The closure of police stations, including in Rotherhithe, has been a big loss for local people and follows another huge cut from the Government to the Met’s budget.

Despite this the current Mayor has taken measures to keep 1,000 officers on our streets – showing that he will stand up to the police crisis May has created with a national rise in crime and falling prosecutions.”

Stephen Bourne, a member of the Southwark Police Independent Advisory Group, said: “The government demands on the Metropolitan Police to save money is having a devastating effect on local community policing.

The loss of police stations in Southwark, such as Tower Bridge, Rotherhithe, Dulwich, and now Camberwell, has made it more difficult for locally based Safer Neighbourhood police teams to find bases in their communities.

No station, no base. “The police do not want to sell their stations, but the government are not giving them a choice.

The impending closure of Camberwell Police Station in March, a station which has served the community for over 100 years – since 1898 – is sad.

The building will probably end up being converted into posh apartments.

“This is what happened to another Victorian-built police station, popularly known as ‘Carter Street’, in nearby Walworth.

Safer Neighbourhood Teams who currently work in the Camberwell wards will be relocated to Peckham Police Station but this will remove them from the communities they serve.

Walworth Police Station is a much better option for them, as a base, because it is closer to Camberwell and they can walk to Camberwell instead of wasting time on multiple bus journeys from Peckham.

“Those of us in the community who work with the police have not been asked about this. So, thanks to the government, community policing, which has already suffered many cutbacks, such as the reduction in Safer Neighbourhood officers, is being removed from the heart of our communities at a time when they are needed here more than ever, especially with the rise in youth crime.”

Mr Khan said in July 2017 Government cuts to the Met left him with “no choice” but to take the drastic action.

He said the Met is tasked with making a further £400million in cuts by 2021, which follows £600million in savings made since 2010.

The Mayor said £170million could be raised by closing poorly used contact points and the cash could be used to fund more frontline officers.

His office said 37 per cent of Londoners now prefer to report crime online and that under the plans one 24-hour front counter would be retained per borough.

The Mayor of London’s office could not confirm its comment at the time of going to press. Lambeth and Southwark have 24 hour front counters accessible to the public at Brixton and Walworth respectively.

Kennington had, on average, just 0.8 crimes reported a day in May 2017. Peckham had 2.1 a day.

But Brixton, which will stay open, had 7.3 crimes a day reported in the same month. And Walworth, where 3.2 crimes were reported on average each day that month, will also stay.

Lambeth had 14,440 theft crimes last year, compared to 14,134 the previous year; and 11,521 violence against the person offences, compared to 11,661 the year before.

Southwark had 15,167 thefts last year, compared to 13,994 in the previous 12 months; and 15,167 violent crimes, compared to 10,654 to year before – a rise of more than 42 per cent.

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