Tuesday 3 April 2018

Policing in Mill Hill - my personal commitments if elected to Barnet Council on May 3rd

Roger Tichborne - My personal commitment to Mill Hill  
Exactly one month from today, the residents of Mill Hill will be voting to elect councillors in the Barnet Council elections. I am standing for the Lib Dems in the ward where I've lived most of my life. I've raised children here and buried my parents locally. I walk around Mill Hill every single day, as a responsible dog owner. I use all of the fantastic green spaces and also walk through the Broadway every night after the shops shut, so Bruno the hound can have a comfortable evenings rest. I see all manner of things during the course of my travels. One of the great things about standing as a candidate is that I am also getting to see the other side of Mill Hill, the parts I don't usually visit. Mill Hill is a huge ward, it is hilly and I believe is now the most populous in London. Millbrook Park is a huge estate, one I've not really visited until recently. Yesterday, I had a lovely conversation with a family on Millbrook Park, who invited me into their home and told me all the good and bad things of the estate. Crime was their main worry, especially burglary.

This was no surprise, in a recent Facebook poll, Crime and policing was the no. 1 concern of residents of families in Mill Hill. The Evening Standard revealed in January that Mill Hill is one of the top five postcodes for burglary in London. We saw the dreadful killing of shopworker Vijay Patel in January in Mill Hill Broadway. This was followed by a rather chaotic meeting at Hartley Hall organised by local MP Matthew Offord. Many local residents were horrified by some of the stories being told from the floor. Sadly as a community Leader, Mr Offord did nothing to offer leadership, reassurance or even a plan to combat the fears of residents.

When I stood in 2010, I spoke with many residents, including serving police officers. One thing is clear from these conversations. The Metropolitan Police is overstretched and as "serious crime" is low in Mill Hill (by serious I assume we mean murders, guns, knifecrime and terrorism), Mill Hill is not a priority for the Met. As the Borough of Barnet has been amalgamated with Brent and Harrow districts for the Police recently, I suspect we will slide even further down the priority list. There are two approaches that can be taken to this challenge. There is the approach of Mr Offord and the Conservative Councillors. This seems to me to be wait for something terrible to happen, then organise a meeting and hope that calms things down until the next bad thing. The attitude of our local Conservative councillors is truly atrocious. At a recent meeting, one of them greeted the appointment of a new female sergeant by exclaiming that she was better looking than the previous one. Many of the attendees were visibly shocked. Such demeaning behaviour at an important meeting is indicative of the lack of seriousness with which policing is taken by the existing regime.

I personally believe that there is a better approach. A more proactive approach. The Barnet Lib Dems have made a manifesto commitment to take up the Mayor of London's offer to fund extra police officers for the beat in Mill Hill. As the family we visited stated yesterday, the cost of rocketing insurance premiums in Mill Hill is more than offsetting any savings in Council tax. Living in a burglary hotspot will always mean you pay more! But it isn't just getting someone else to plod the beat that is needed. We need councillors who get out with the Police, meet residents and business owners and make sure problems get addressed. I will confess that I don't really know too much about policing. However what I do know is that the more the police talk to the community, the better a job they do. I believe that Councillors should regularly walk the beat with officers, clearly ensuring that they don't get in their way. Councillors should be working to improve contacts between all of the stakeholders in dealing with crime. This doesn't mean having a nice cup of tea in council officers with the top brass, to hear the latest stats. It means getting out on the streets and meeting people.

It doesn't just mean spending ten minutes on a sunny Saturday morning walking up and down Mill Hill Broadway saying hello to all of the nice law abiding citizens of our town. It means getting out and about at the times and in the places where crime is actually taking place. It means getting a proper understanding of the real challenges our police in Mill Hill are facing and then working with them to see what the Council can do to improve the situation. It means promoting the various forums and organisations (such as Neighbourhood watch) that can make a difference.

I've discussed the burglary epidemic with local police. They have stated that this is largely committed by gangs from outside of Mill Hill, who drive in, rob houses and are often long gone before anyone has even realised. They tell me that this type of gang are hard to catch. As far as I am concerned, there is a world of difference between hard to catch and impossible to catch. The first step is to make a commitment to do it, the second is to see how other areas have done it successfully. Most criminals have a modus operandi, and by analysing patterns, can be identified. Most burglars have a criminal record. I am of the opinion that with CCTV and data mining techniques, there is a good chance that they can be identified. Whenever I put this to the police, I hear the same response "lack of resources". I have no reason to doubt this, however I also believe that politicians always find resources when it is important to them. It would be good to ask the Met "How much?". Once we know that, then maybe we can start to work on getting it.

As I said, I am not an expert. However, I am a quick learner and a hard worker. If I am elected on May 3rd, I will make three personal commitment to the people of Mill Hill. My colleagues and fellow candidates Donna Pickup and Richard Logue have committed to supporting these pledges. Between us, we have the energy and commitment to make this work and make A Better Mill Hill.

1. Our team will produce a monthly crime update for all residents of all crime in Mill Hill. We will also discuss this with local police to report back exactly what is being done, what can be done and how we can make Mill Hill safer. Writing one blog a month to say what is happening on crime locally and working with the police to reduce it and make our neighbourhood better will be no trouble at all. Mill Hill Police already produce a crime heat map. What we don't have is a commentary from our local councillors as to how this is affecting the local community.

2. Our team will make a personal commitment to walk a beat in Mill Hill with the SNT once a month, come rain or shine (assuming this doesn't interfere with their operational ability and they are in agreement).

3.  Our team  work tirelessly to ensure that the Mill Hill SNT and the Metropolitan Police in Barnet have sufficient funding to do the job properly

You may be tempted to say "Oh yeah, they all say that. Then they get elected and you never hear from them again!".  Well look at this blog. Over the last nine and a half years, I've written more than 1 blog every single day about our locality. There are over 4.5 million words here. I've done it because I love Mill Hill and I want our town to be the best possible place to live. With the support of Donna and Richard, we will make sure this happens.

It won't solve all of the problems, but it will be a start. Our team of myself,  Donna Pickup and Richard Logue are committed to this initiative. We have a first class team of local people who will make this work.

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