Camden’s top cop: ‘Moped robbers would hit Hampstead even if police station was open’
10:00 15 August 2014
Camden’s most senior police officer has rejected claims that the closure of Hampstead police station has led to a surge of moped-riding robbers, insisting criminals would rob “whether the police station was there or not”.
Ch Supt Ben-Julian ‘BJ’ Harrington made the claim in response to a spate of seven muggings in Hampstead carried out in one day by a pair of teenagers riding on a scooter and targeting people with mobile phones on Saturday, August 2.
Last week, the Ham&High reported residents’ fears that the police station closure last June had left the area vulnerable to mugging sprees.
But Ch Supt Harrington, Camden’s borough commander, said: “My personal judgement is that the closure of Hampstead police station has no negative impact on the operational delivery of policing in Camden.
“I would much rather have officers on the streets patrolling rather than sat there waiting for people to come into the station.
“These people would rob in Hampstead or in Frognal and Fitzjohn’s whether the police station was there or not.”
The crime spree on August 2, which has resulted in a 16-year-old girl being charged with robbery, is the latest in a long line of muggings in Hampstead involving criminals on mopeds, stretching back to May last year.
In May this year, moped raiders smashed through the front door of ex-Championship footballer Alexander Merkel’s Hampstead home and the following month several mothers were mugged picking up children on the school run.
There have also been a number of violent muggings, involving hammers, targeting residents for their watches or jewellery.
Ch Supt Harrington was keen to stress that last week’s muggings were not linked to the previous violent muggings in Hampstead and elsewhere.
He said: “This is a teenager joy-riding on a stolen moped snatching phones opportunistically. This is not the same as what we have seen in Hampstead and Barnet, which has been almost a targeted approach, looking for people in expensive cars with expensive watches and we have seen hammers – that particularly violent and nasty crime.”
The borough commander also pointed out that there have been no violent muggings in Hampstead in the wake of a number of recent arrests.
Ch Supt Harrington also denied that the police had been slow to react to the mugging spree in Hampstead.
He added: “I absolutely refute any suggestion that we have sat back and done nothing for 18 months and it’s only because we have suddenly got our backside into gear that we are now doing something, or in fact it was the community meeting that has triggered us into being active.
“We have been active throughout this period but we have just had greater success recently.”