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Robbery victims confront police and lobby David Cameron over ‘ultra-violent’ crime and station closure in Hampstead

Jessica Learmond-Criqui leads a delegation of Hampstead residents and victims of crime to Number 10 Downing Street. Picture: Dieter Perry Jessica Learmond-Criqui leads a delegation of Hampstead residents and victims of crime to Number 10 Downing Street. Picture: Dieter Perry

Thursday, June 26, 2014
8:00 AM

Robbery victims issued emotional pleas for an increased police presence to tackle “ultra-violent” crime at an unprecedented public meeting in Hampstead – before delivering their request to the Prime Minister.

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Elderly mugging victim Davina Benson speaks at public meeting with police over rising violent crime in Hampstead. Picture: Nigel SuttonElderly mugging victim Davina Benson speaks at public meeting with police over rising violent crime in Hampstead. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Several victims confronted Camden’s police chiefs at the meeting on Sunday and demanded action to reduce violent crime in the area.

It was called following a wave of hammer attacks and moped muggings after the closure of Hampstead Police Station, which was axed 12 months ago this week.

One 38-year-old woman told how she was jumped by three men who left her with cuts and bruises and partly tore off a fingernail when they unsuccessfully attempted to snatch her wedding ring in broad daylight in Netherhall Gardens, at about 11.30am on June 3, before making off in a black SUV.

The mother-of-one, who asked not to be named, said: “They have made me no longer feel safe in my neighbourhood.

Ch Insp Steve Wright, borough commander Ch Supt Ben-Julian 'BJ' Harrington and Insp Howard Hornby listen to residents. Picture: Nigel SuttonCh Insp Steve Wright, borough commander Ch Supt Ben-Julian 'BJ' Harrington and Insp Howard Hornby listen to residents. Picture: Nigel Sutton

“Due to the lack of police presence, we have become an easy target for these thugs. The effect is that a lot of women no longer feel safe in this neighbourhood.”

She added: “I was told by the initial officer that this was no big deal, that this happens all the time. What is going to be done about this and why is there some appearance of denial that there’s an issue?”

The victims, including a Royal Free surgeon, young parents and a woman in her 80s mugged on her own doorstep, were joined by more than 200 residents who supported their calls.

The meeting at St Stephen’s, Rosslyn Hill, was called by Jessica Learmond-Criqui, chairman of the Frognal and Fitzjohns Safer Neighbourhoods Panel, who two weeks ago launched a petition asking for extra police resources to be ploughed into Hampstead.

Less than 48 hours later, on the anniversary of the police station’s closure on Tuesday, Ms Learmond-Criqui led a delegation of residents, including the 38-year-old mother, to Downing Street to deliver the 1,700-signature petition to David Cameron’s door.

In her letter to the prime minister, she wrote: “The burglaries and robberies in and around Hampstead seem to have a pitiless and ultra-violent quality which does not exist in other wards and, as the officers heard on Sunday night, did not exist in Hampstead to the same degree a year ago.

“This wave coincided with the closing of the station.”

At Sunday’s meeting, borough commander Ch Supt Ben-Julian “BJ” Harrington, Ch Insp Steven Wright, in charge of operations, and Insp Howard Hornby, who oversees neighbourhood policing in Hampstead, sought to reassure the community.

They said statistics show little difference in crime rates since the station’s closure, though this angered many residents who insisted police figures do not reveal the true picture.

Ch Supt Harrington told the Ham&High: “It’s really powerful that so many people came together to tell us how they feel.

“One of the key issues that comes across really strongly was police visibility, making sure officers are visible to people in the places where they feel most vulnerable.

“We’re going to improve that in Hampstead.”

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