Last week I met with shopkeepers and the local police in my ward of Crouch End, who are increasingly concerned about shoplifting - and crime more generally - in their shops and the local area.

Policing and crime are huge issues nationally, but especially here in London where the failings of the Met have rightly been put under the spotlight.

Neither the Conservative government nor the Labour Mayor have so far proved capable of grasping the nettle and getting to grips with the problems and increasing public confidence.

Last week this paper reported on thieves who were so brazen that they returned just a few hours after shoplifting from Sainsbury’s in Muswell Hill to break into the store and attack a security guard.

Meanwhile the Co-op has said that crime in its stores had hit record levels, increasing by over a third in the last year alone, and now describing the activities of criminals as looting rather than shoplifting, given the frequency and boldness of some offenders.

Ham & High: Luke Cawley-Harrison has met with shopkeepers concerned about the rise of crime in their shopsLuke Cawley-Harrison has met with shopkeepers concerned about the rise of crime in their shops (Image: Haringey Lib Dems)

It is a cliché in politics, but people clearly want to see more, better trained police, embedded in the communities they are supposed to be protecting. And, of course, it is clear that neighbourhood police officers are as frustrated as everyone else at the proliferation of crime.

Despite the Government’s boast that they have increased police numbers, this does not seem in evidence on our streets.

Our Crouch End neighbourhood police work hard, but they are regularly not in the ward as cuts across the force mean that too many officers are dragged away from the frontline of fighting crime to other activities, from administration, to managing protests or large-scale events. In fact, Home Office crime statistics analysed by the Liberal Democrats showed that just 12% of officers are now assigned to frontline neighbourhood policing teams.

Liberal Democrats have been calling more action on this, such as for a legal right for burglary victims to be visited by a police officer. Clearly this is necessary as more than 45,000 burglaries went unattended in 2022; over 50% of cases in some areas.

We need a return to proper community policing, where officers are visible in their neighbourhoods with the time and resources to focus on tackling local crimes.

It is shocking speaking with people here in Haringey how little faith people have in the police to actually catch criminals and reduce the level of these sorts of crimes.

We all deserve to have confidence that if we are victims of crime, there is a system to fall back on. Shopkeepers and private citizens should not be forced to act themselves against criminals, or accept that the only recourse we have if we are victims of a robbery is an insurance company.

We all accept that not every crime is going to be solved, but an attempt should at least be made before the impact on businesses becomes so significant they will no longer be able to operate on our high streets.

  • Luke Cawley-Harrison is councillor of Crouch End Ward and leader of the Liberal Democrat Group.