Southwark’s top police officer has poured water on claims the merger between Southwark and Lambeth police is hindering officers’ ability to tackle a surge in serious violence – and says just one officer has lost their job in the reshuffle.
Speaking on Monday at his Brixton police station base, Simon Messinger, the Met’s central south commander, told the News that there had been no jobs lost as part of the merger, except the role of Lambeth Borough commander.
“Superintendents are all the same, and Peckham will stay as Southwark’s patrol base and Brixton for Lambeth, so no change there,” he said.
“Much of that uniformed, visible presence will remain exactly the same. The actual date go ‘live’ is January 23.”
He confirmed that response teams will be bigger, to deal with ‘low level’ crime, for example shoplifters, and crimes without weapons, as well as 999 calls.
These officers expected to arrest, interview, take them to court – with Messinger saying this was part of making sure ‘cops are cops’. He also confirmed there would be no loss of covert or proactive officers working in the gangs team.
According to his team, there are actually more dedicated ward officers now than last year due to boundary changes by the local authority – meaning two new wards with their own dedicated officers.
Superintendent Ian Howells, who heads up Southwark’s safer neighbourhood team officers, said there was a renewed focus on safeguarding work to prevent young people being drawn into crime with more officers drafted in as part of the merger.
“It has been made known that that Southwark and Lambeth lost around 250 officers in the last two years.
“There are some fundamental things about why are we are doing this and one of the elements is to invest in key areas such as youth diversion – there’s an uplift in schools and youth engagement officers.
“Each of the senior schools will have a named officer – sometimes exclusively or officers sharing two or three schools – and on top of that we will start working more with junior schools, making sure we are building those relationships and that comes into a wider safeguarding piece to identify individuals who may be at risk and support other agencies to help them get the support they need.
“A lot of what we are going to be doing is already in existence – what we are talking about is scope the ability to cover more ground and particularly having more of a reach to younger children and schools.
Superintendent Annmarie Cowley said the police were in talks with both councils how a public health approach could work across both boroughs: “We haven’t got what is called a public health approach per se, but those conversations with Lambeth and Southwark are taking place to see what that means going forward.
Cowley also said that there were now more dedicated ward officers since boundary changes earlier this year created two new wards – with each one having dedicated officers and PCSOs.
Figures gained by the News from a freedom of information request show that in the last four years Southwark’s safer neighbourhood team strength has been cut from a peak of 218 in 2014, to 121 at the end of September this year.
At the end of December 2017, there were 141 officers in ‘neighbourhood policing roles’.