How safe do you feel in your daily life? In your home, your city?    

What is it that makes you feel unsafe?  

Threatened with a knife, you call the police. What if there’s continual confrontation with people who are classed as “anti-social”, or those with drug and alcohol-related issues?   

A resident recently called me for help regarding a vagrant sleeping in the entrance to his narrow street, blocking the pathway which also led to a primary school. He asked me to notify the police. He was unaware, as are many, of the powers and resources available to councils to tackle something classed as antisocial behaviour. Lack of knowledge as to who has powers to do what remains a problem.

Ham & High: Cllr Linda ChungCllr Linda Chung (Image: Camden Council)

This was highlighted last week by the report of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, who cited cases of long delays by councils in responding to complaints, telling people to go to the police instead of acting, and failing to liaise properly with other agencies. It reported that of the 63 cases investigated, 51 were upheld. Furthermore, two million anti-social incidents go unattended, and anti-social behaviour is still seen ‘as a bit of a bother’.

The Metropolitan Police's turnaround plan has at last recognised that more attention should be given to neighbourhood policing. Camden has teams of community presence officers that cover public safety, but the extent of their powers is vague. This should not be the case. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 places a responsibility on the police and the council to work together alongside other key partners to prevent crime and reduce reoffending in their areas. This should also help ensure effective sharing of public resources without gaps, or duplication, of services. 

Hampstead, though classed as a safe and prosperous area, tends to get less attention and resources compared to say Camden Town. However, it has its own share of homeless in our high streets and problems that go under the radar.  

Unless there is a better sense of shared responsibility of all agencies, long and short term, there will be a sense of frustration and helplessness when faced with something which can be perceived as a danger to society, which though not a direct physical threat, eats away at people's sense of security, safety, and mental health.  

Linda Chung is councillor for Hampstead ward and chair of resources and corporate performances scrutiny committee at Camden Council.