As a person who helped set up the Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Southwark thirteen years ago, Stephen Bourne is right to speak out about fears that the whole scheme is in danger of vanishing.
The sad truth is that the Met police have been hit by years of cuts and reshuffling at a time of economic hardship. A time which inevitably leads to an increase in crime, as people on the margins of society are starved of resources that central government says they are no longer able to fund.
The Safer Neighbourhood Teams are there to do more than enforce the law and are born out of such reports as the 1981 Scarman Report after the Brixton Riots and the 1999 MacPherson Report after the killing of Stephen Lawrence. It is a system that hopes to knock down the ‘them and us’ mentality, so having officers in the job long-term instead of being moved on every eight months is critical to its effectiveness. Certainly being sent across London to deal with incidents because of a lack of resources will mean that they cannot keep on top of the low-level crimes that escalate into wider problems, as we have witnessed this summer.
Of course Southwark Police cannot be blamed, but as Stephen rightly points out “the time has come for politicians, the Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to take notice and fight for Safer Neighbourhood Teams, so they are not lost in the wider reshuffling of the Met and the current merger taking place with Lambeth.