Even with the huge changes that the internet and social media have wrought on public behaviour patterns – and with them how people report crime – it still seems like a step too far to close all but one police front counter in the borough.
Just eight per cent of crimes were reported across London in 2016, down from 22 per cent in 2006, according to police figures. Much of this will be down to people using email, social media or phone, rather than going down to a police station to report a crime.
But at the same time, the Met have long been reducing their presence at police stations, and this strategy will have also impacted on the ways that victims report crime. If you’ve suffered an unpleasant crime, there’s a good chance that you would want to see someone face to face to talk about it – but who would want to attempt that if they feared the station would be closed, or have no-one there to help you? As for attending police stalls in supermarkets, we never believed this to be a realistic substitute.
It is impossible to separate out the decision from the imperative of driving down costs – indeed London Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted he had ‘no choice but to take drastic action’, with the Met’s budget reduced by £600m since 2010 and a further £400m of savings to be found by 2021. In Southwark, both Peckham and Southwark stations’ front counters will close, whilst Kennington will be sold off, as will Rotherhithe.
People’s habits have changed massively over the past decade, and policing has to reflect that. But the events that led to this decision feel somewhat like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It remains to be seen whether all these cutbacks will turn out to be savings in the long run, if levels of crime rise as a result.