HyPER’s Second “Have Your Say” Event: Crime

Chris Gunness chairs a lively and enthusiastic discussion

It was standing room only at a very successful meeting organised by HyPER to discuss residents’ concerns about crime on the Hyde Park Estate. Many issues were raised, from basic policing in response to incidents, to ways that crime could be mitigated in the first instance.

We are very grateful for the attendance of Sergeant Martin Noon and PC Adam Oddy from our Safer Neighbourhoods Team, and all 3 of our ward councillors, Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, Cllr Judith Southern and Cllr Md Shamsed Chowdhury.

Many topics were raised for discussion. The minutes follow and we have produced an action grid at the end of this page to facilitate ongoing discussions.

Meeting Introduction

Chris opened the meeting by explaining that various residents from Portsea Place, Connaught Square and the wider estate were concerned about anti-social behaviour, crime and security matters and that this would be the focus of the meeting.

It was agreed that the main issues to be discussed were the following, after which the floor would be open to residents to comment and ask questions.

  • Crime
  • Security
  • Prostitution
  • Drugs

The panel spoke for a few moments on each of these issues.

Panel Comments

Police and councillors formed the evening’s panel

Sergeant Martin Noon: Police Sargent Noon explained that Hyde Park is an ‘enhanced’ ward and therefore gets an extra officer who deals with anti-social behaviour and crimes that can be resolved at a local level.

It was stated that Hyde Park is attracting significant levels of crime. The police shift patterns are structured in a way that takes account of factors such as; antisocial behaviour, community events and when to structure night shifts. Most of the shifts (80%) are during the day but with one weekend out of four being 2pm – midnight.

Cllr Judith Southern: Lives in Westbourne Crescent and has experienced some of the crimes that we are all experiencing. She stated that the situation is feeling very much out of control and feels that the criminal gangs are very present in our area. This was supported by a show of hands within the room.

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg explained that there have been additional meetings with the local police team to consider what actions can be taken by the police, councillors and by liaising with the local landowners including the Church Commissioners. He gave examples of practical steps such as pruning the trees on Portsea Place to prevent them giving cover to criminals and bring light on the street, exposing the drug dealing.

There is representation on the Edgware Road Steering Group. The Portman Estate, council officers as well as Church Commissioners attend. Much of the crime and problems emanate from this area which are deep-seated and long-standing. Paul chairs this Steering Group and as an ‘action point’ he will be inviting HyPER, HPEA as well as other resident groups from the other side of Edgware Road to these meetings.

PC Adam Oddy described some of the initiatives that the police are taking in our area; getting boots on the ground, being as visible as possible, tackling the streets that have antisocial behaviour; drugs, prostitution and noise and the recent bike marking event.

Residents Questions and Comments

1. Amanda: Described the ongoing problems of noise, late night screaming and general anti-social behaviour that normally occurs from 11pm onwards.

Sergeant Noon advised that you call 999 if someone is in trouble but for routine screaming there won’t be a response. Anti-social behaviour is classed as an E Grade – police will drive past but no further action. Each call gets risk assessed and then a duty officer will check the grading of the call. Teams are then allocated to action depending on the severity of the situation.

2. Shariya described a similar pattern of behaviour that occurs after the night clubs close; eating takeaways from Edgeware Road in their cars and playing loud music. Throwing rubbish and food on the streets and examples of extreme antisocial and dangerous behaviour such as letting off fireworks in the road.

Further examples were given: two youths are regularly shining torches into the cars, his house was broken in to as well as a knife fight on his doorstep involving large numbers of people, vandalism of cars, numerous being smashed in repeatedly on the square for no reason.

General point that procedures are not working to prevent crime; people are racing their cars through the streets and the criminals are more brazen, intoxicated, are clearly a coordinated business or damaging property for fun.

Action Point: all residents were urged to call these issues in to the Police as well as to the Noise Team.

3. Various Residents commented on the refusal by the Planning Department to allow burglar alarms or cameras to be installed (Jawad, John, Kath, Tazeen).

Everyone had faced action from the Planning Department some years ago and had been told to remove alarm boxes or face prosecution. Jawad explained that he had installed a CCTV camera at his own expense and this had greatly reduced crime by the property but he received a letter instructing him to remove the camera. Crime had then returned to normal levels.

Tazeen asked why we didn’t have government installed cameras with notices up in the neighbourhood that they were present.

Action Point: Councillor Chowdhury explained that a communal planning application would need to be submitted to the Planning Committee on behalf of a street / square. This was not guaranteed to be approved but more likely than if submitted on an individual basis.

4. Gaelle expanded on the antisocial behaviour that was a frequent occurrence. The fireworks were very scary and unsafe, young teenagers are witnessing drugs and cash being traded. Littering is disgusting and perpetrators leave everything including glass causing damage to cars. People urinating continually in the streets.

Police team responded that Merchant Square had a problem with similar issues but when the residents starting reporting each event, the police were able to get territorial support groups to assist.

Action point: HyPER to post on its website the numbers/systems to report crimes and action every time that they witness something.

5. How do we get cameras put up in the area?

Sergeant Noon explained that Westminster (in his opinion) has the worst CCTV footprint in any major capital city. He said the previous council had an argument with the Met Police and the CCTV systems were switched off and/or haven’t been updated since 2005 because there is no agreement as to who will pay for them.

Action Point: Paul to revert on this point about the CCTV at the next meeting.

6. Martin explained that he was in favour of CCTV but also wanted to know about Private Security: what are their powers, what would be the benefit to having a private security team.

PC Oddy explained that private security firms have the same powers as every citizen to stop behaviour but they act as a good deterrent because they:

  • Can have dogs
  • Can carry handcuffs
  • Can wear uniforms
  • Can use handcuffs to stop burglaries and detain people to prevent a crime if they witness it.

He explained that a 6-week trial in the local area resulted in a massive reduction in crime.

Action Point: local residence to look into private security and coordinate an effort to get them in the area.

7. Katy explained that Portsea Place saw drug dealing all the time and that residents have been asking the Church Commissioners for a gate to stop the dealing in the vacant mews. There was huge support for a gate to be installed.

Cllr Dimoldenberg explained that the Church Commissioners are submitting a Planning Application for the mews and as soon as it is a building site a gate can then be installed. The application is high on the agenda but until it is approved a gate is not allowed because the road is a public highway.

Police commented that sexual activity and prostitution is an historic problem in the area. Legislation in this area is out of date and police now focus on trafficking, enforced prostitution rather than selecting out action against individuals. The Sexual Exploitation Unit works in consultation with the police and work with TAMAR (Sexual charity). The problem is that many of the sex workers earn £3-5K per week therefore limited reason to accept help.

8. Rebecca (Connaught Square) summarised the ongoing problems of open drug dealing, vomiting, cars racing. Her daughter was approached by men asking her for sexualised activity when she was on her own doorstep. Children being mugged, approached by men wanting sex; all of this is totally unacceptable. What can we do in the meantime while we get organised?

Action Point: residents immediately report unwanted attention, call the police immediately if there is an approach towards a child.

9. Elke, who sent regrets for being absent, raised several questions (related to the meeting by Chris), regarding the car wash, a gate at Portsea Mews, the brothel at 15 Portsea Place and an increased police presence. Elke reports that the Church Commissioner are not pleased that the property in Portsea Place is being used as a car wash. What can be done?

Action Point: Paul is going to raise this concern again. Md Shamsed commented that Number 15 is of concern on Portsea Place as well as other properties and reiterated the need to report all criminal behaviour to the police when it is seen.

10. Andy Beverley stated that he had been informed that in the past a 24/7 parking enforcement presence has helped to reduce crime in an area, and can be cost-neutral if enough tickets are issued.

Action Point: Cllr Dimoldenberg to investigate late night parking enforcement.

Final points

The intention is to have a follow up ‘Have Your Say’ meeting in 6 weeks’ time, hosted by HyPER. Police will be on nights to cover Halloween/Bonfire Night.

Action grid

The action grid has been moved to a dedicated page.