Crime up, police sanction detections down, yet the LBWF Safer Neighbourhoods Board hasn’t met since November 2021

In the 12 months ending August 2022, crime in Waltham Forest rose 1.9 per cent, while sanction detections (charges, summonses, cautions reprimands, final warning, etc.) fell by the same amount.

Turning to the most common crime in the borough, violence against the person, there were 6,710 offences in 2021-22, 2.3 per cent down on the previous year, which seems a plus, though one that is considerably diminished by the fact that sanction detections had also declined, and by a whopping 13.4 per cent.

Meanwhile research released in October 2021 revealed that almost two thirds of residents reported themselves worried about crime, with four-fifths declaring that ‘knife crime was a problem in their area’, the highest proportion in London. 

And, while public confidence in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was for the most part mid-range in pan-London terms, fewer people in Waltham Forest than anywhere else in the capital agreed with the specific proposition that ‘the police can be relied upon to be there when needed’.

This is not to argue that crime is swamping the borough, or policing is in crisis. 

But, that said, there can be no disputing that crime is a real problem for residents, and that there is a pressing need for as much public debate about its dimensions, causes, and palliatives as possible.

So are the circumstances right for such public debate to happen?

Currently, residents can attend MPS organised ward panels, and question their local police team and councillors, under the watchful eye of an independent chair.

That is a boon, but has its limits. Many ward panels work well, and generate fruitful discussion, but there are other examples where the opposite is true, and meetings are poorly publicised and run. Much depends on the aptitude and enthusiasm of the chair, and of course the co-operation of individual police officers.

However, the real problems occur further up the organisational chain at borough level, where the key institution is LBWF’s Safer Neighbourhoods Board (SNB), which was set up on the recommendation of the London Mayor explicitly to give residents and victims ‘a greater voice around crime prevention and reduction’.

A decade or so ago, the SNB was open to all, well attended, and reasonably successful. But more recently, it has become a member only organisation and then, despite the presence of senior councillors like Roy Berg and Karen Bellamy, descended into near constant crisis, with an internal report concluding it was riven by ‘open hostility and antagonism’, ‘not representative of the wider community’, and ‘introverted, addressing internal issues and conflict rather than focusing on holding the police to account’.

More worryingly still, the SNB now seems to be virtually defunct, with the last known meeting having occurred as long ago as November 2021, and the published membership list long out of date. Asked to comment, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), which to some extent funds and advises other SNBs across London, says it is investigating. 

Meanwhile, LBWF has launched a separate organisation, the Citizens Panel on Community Safety and Crime (CPCSC). The idea here is to bring together a sample of residents who are truly ‘representative’, and then empower them to advise ‘directly’ on ‘how best to tackle crime’. 

Accordingly, LBWF has used ‘social media channels’ and newsletters to solicit applications from ‘specific community groups, faith organisations and colleagues’, and then appointed 77 members from the pool of respondents.

So far so good.

Yet it’s clear that the CPCSC is also flawed.

For one thing, whether it is truly ‘representative’ in any normal sense of the word, is open to question. 

LBWF has not published details of the 77 members’ age, sexuality, religion, or social class, neither does it state where they come from in the borough. 

But what it has published is a bar chart on ethnicity, which turns out to be highly revealing. For it shows that far from reflecting Waltham Forest’s demographics, some groups are over-represented (for instance, ‘Black/Black British’), and others under-represented (for instance, ‘Asian/Asian British’, ‘White British/Irish’ and ‘Other White Background’). 

And in the light of the fuss made about precisely avoiding such outcomes, that’s not a happy place to end up in.

However, there is worse, since when questioned under the Freedom of Information Act, LBWF now admits that the CPCSC anyway has yet to meet.

Overall, it’s a mess, and one that appears difficult to resolve.

MOPAC clearly wants the SNB to continue, but whether LBWF agrees is doubtful, simply because, despite the efforts of its sycophants and placemen, it has lost control of the agenda.

On the other hand, whether the CPCSC will prove an adequate replacement is doubtful. The rhetoric about prioritising ‘representativeness’ at first sight appears attractive, but this being Waltham Forest, it’s unwise to take anything at face value. 

Indeed, council officers may have opted for this format less because of altruism, more because, with the help of carefully chosen ‘experts’ and the tailoring of information, they will be able to swing opinion in favour of the politically expedient, for example, the latest fads emanating from City Hall and the College of Policing.

Updates will follow.

Related Posts

Can the ordinary resident get justice in Waltham Forest?

Crime and policing latest: the Waltham Forest Safer Neighbourhood Board hits the skids again, and now LBWF – controversially – wants to disband it

Waltham Forest’s Safer Neighbourhoods Board and MOPAC funding: the scandal continues

Waltham Forest’s Safer Neighbourhoods Board and MOPAC funding: a scandal in the making

1 Comment

  1. Boiling Katie - September 13, 2022, 1:41 pm

    Spot on Nic –
    ‘It is also true that some women on the SNB complained of bullying and misogyny’.

Comments are now closed on this post.