It’s quiet and affluent: that’s why robbers love Hampstead

08:00 19 June 2014

Ch Supt Ben-Julian "BJ" Harrington. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

Ch Supt Ben-Julian "BJ" Harrington. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Camden’s most senior police officer has insisted that violent crime is not on the rise in Hampstead, despite a recent spate of violent moped robberies and school-run muggings.

Borough commander Ch Supt Ben-Julian “BJ” Harrington admitted there had been a series of “disturbing” robberies in the last month but that officers have seen a continuing reduction in violent crime in Hampstead and across the borough.

His comments have been met with disbelief from community activist Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who has started a petition to bring a police base back to Hampstead in response to the crimes.

Speaking on Friday, Ch Supt Harrington said: “We are increasing patrols in Hampstead not only as a result of this ongoing issue around burglaries but because it’s been there for years, as it’s an affluent area with quiet streets.

“For victims it has been hugely scary and it’s massively important that we catch the people involved.”

Nearly 1,000 people have signed the online petition calling for better resources for the Metropolitan Police Service to fight crime in Hampstead, including a physical base to replace the former Hampstead Police Station in Rosslyn Hill.

It follows a run of at least seven moped robberies spreading from Hampstead Garden Suburb to Hampstead, linked to a notorious gang of ram-raiders.

Many of the petition’s signatories include concerned parents and headteachers frightened that criminals are targeting mums and dads outside schools.

Police have confirmed two muggings involving parents outside schools but the community has supplied information about several more.

Despite this, Ch Supt Harrington said criminals are not targeting parents on the school-run in Hampstead.

He added that a new police base in Hampstead would not prevent these crimes from happening.

“It is opportunistic: they are clearly targeting people with expensive stuff because that’s what they want to steal,” he said.

“It’s as likely to be me in Hampstead because I have an expensive watch as a parent or mother with their child in a car outside a school.

He continued: “The reality is I can’t put a police cop on every street corner in Hampstead 24 hours a day.

“I understand that having a police base is a reassuring presence but what we need to do is continue to make sure that cops are out on patrol and not stuck in a building. It’s not necessary.”

Ms Learmond-Criqui, chairman of the Frognal and Fitzjohns Safer Neighbourhood Panel, disagreed “vehemently” with the borough commander about the need for a physical police base in Hampstead.

“Criminals have looked at the houses opposite the police station and burgled them,” she said. “It’s two fingers up to the police.

“Until about a year ago, we didn’t have this frequency of violent crime. That’s changed since the police station closed.

“The borough commander talks pretty words but [the reduction in crime] has not been the residents’ experience on the ground.”

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