October 23 2014 Latest news:
by Tom Marshall
Friday, March 7, 2014
It has suffered countless setbacks and was almost scuppered by an embarrassing wrangle over £30 – but Hampstead’s new police contact point is finally up and running.
The long-awaited drop-in centre launched on Thursday at the Old Hampstead Town Hall, Haverstock Hill, some nine months after it was first promised following the closure of century-old Hampstead police station last June.
Officers will now be stationed there three times per week, ready to receive any members of the public who want to discuss matters of crime and anti-social behaviour.
The first session was hosted by Sgt Ryan Keating, of the Hampstead Town Safer Neighbourhoods team, who had been tasked with finding the perfect location for the contact point.
“It’s a relief it’s open and running now,” he said. “Ever since the police station closed, we have told the community we will open this contact point, but there have been a few bureaucratic hurdles.”
The Metropolitan Police Service has been criticised over its laboured attempts to set it up. First there were doubts about many of the options, with officers themselves voicing concerns about teaming up with Starbucks, which had offered space, because of the coffee giant’s reputation for tax avoidance. Then after the old town hall – a prominent site just 500 yards from the closed police station – was finally chosen as the perfect spot, the plans were almost thwarted at the last minute over a weekly fee of just £30.
The fee was to cover the costs of a charity that manages the building, but police bosses were concerned about setting a London-wide precedent that would lead to a big bill for contact points across the capital.
Critics were aghast that the Met was refusing to dip into its pockets over such a paltry sum – especially as the Hampstead police station site is expected to fetch millions when sold.
But after the Ham&High intervened by offering to raise the money, and then brought the matter to the attention of Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, the Met swiftly approved the outlay.
Sgt Keating added: “Now everything is finally in place, we’re hopeful it’s going to be a success.
“It’s an opportunity for people to speak to police face-to-face if they want some advice or to speak about a crime. It’s all well and good being able to report crimes on the internet or on the phone, but from an engagement point of view, I would always prefer to be speaking face-to-face.”
n The contact point is open on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 7 to 8pm and Saturday afternoons from 2 to 3pm.