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Hampstead Heath dog patrol unit to be axed

PUBLISHED: 10:12 22 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:18 22 February 2018

Police Dog Raz from the Heath Constabulary pictured in 2016

Police Dog Raz from the Heath Constabulary pictured in 2016

Archant

There will be no police dogs patrolling Hampstead Heath following a cost-cutting exercise, the Ham&High can reveal.

Police Dog Raz from the Heath Constabulary pictured in 2016 Police Dog Raz from the Heath Constabulary pictured in 2016

The last dog will bow out of service from April 1 this year meaning there will be no law-enforcing canines left on patrol at the Heath.

An anonymous source aware of the plan said: “Police dogs are like a vehicle’s airbag. You may never need it. However, the one time that you do, you’re pleased that you had one there.

“They may not be used every day, but on that one day when something dreadful unfolds, knife or even terrorist related, you are going to be glad that you have them. Take them away and the option is gone.”

The source added: “When the Met is under pressure with limited resources and crime at an all time high, it is madness to remove a tactical option.”

The Hampstead Heath Constabulary was set up in 1992 to protect visitors. When the Corporation of London took over the running of the Heath all officers were trained dog handlers, but they have been slowly replaced by constables, doing the same job of law enforcement but without their four legged friends.

Over the years police dog numbers have dwindled from 12 down to six, then four down to two until the end of last year when one retired due to ill health.

This prompted a review by Heath bosses. But instead of finding another dog, chiefs concluded the cost of finding a replacement, training it and caring for it was too much, according to the anonymous source.

The source blasted Heath bosses saying the cuts had been justified by managers who had no appreciation of how effective dogs are in law enforcement.

He added dogs make “a huge difference” taking part in searches, acting as visible deterrents and helping put a stop to anti-social behaviour.

According to the source, the last dog’s removal threatens public safety with the threat of trouble-makers encroaching on the Heath and the absence of dogs leaving officers without an extra bite.

A spokesman for the City of London Corporation, which manages the Heath, said: “The constabulary will always ensure that visitors are safe and secure, through high profile patrolling, deterrence, education and enforcement.

“We are committed to helping crime victims and will always ensure they are afforded the highest level of care,” he added.

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