Camden and Islington police merger: Chief keen to deploy drones as force looks to modernise
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The head of the newly merged Camden and Islington borough police forces has laid out her plans for the future – including potentially using drones to fight crime.
Former Islington borough commander Catherine Roper, who is now leading the unified Camden and Islington teams, moved to reassure Camden Safer Neighbourhood Board (CSNB) about the changes at a Town Hall meeting last night.
The merger – being trialled by the Metropolitan Police Service as a means of “modernising” the force – will see staff, buildings, technology and vehicles shared across the two boroughs.
Explaining the reasoning behind the move, Det Ch Supt Roper said: “It makes much more sense to get a car from Islington to go two or three streets into Camden rather than to get another car all the way from the other side of Camden to go.”
She also expressed her desire to use drones in crime “hotspots” across the boroughs.
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“We don’t deploy them but I’m looking to change that,” she said, adding: “I think Camden and Islington would be a great place to trial them.”
She said the drone strategy is being run by central units at the Met – and mentioned “absolutely ridiculous CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] rules” governing the technology’s use – but said there were many other concerns that must be overcome first.
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She said: “There are huge issues around privacy and human rights, of course,” adding that she will explore the possibilities further.
She also conceded the merger was in part a reaction to the Met’s need to cut costs, but stressed the benefits of moving to a more efficient model.
Officer numbers will not be immediately affected, she said, but added that “a lot” of savings were still to be made and police numbers were something the Met was “going to have to look at”.
“Sometimes we send police officers to things they don’t need to go to,” she said, using as an example police responding to reports of lost phones rather than stolen phones.
She emphasised, however, that all wards will have two “ring-fenced” dedicated officers who cannot be “extracted” to other parts of London except on New Year’s Eve and for the Notting Hill Carnival.
Neighbourhood officers will also stop conducting investigations to free up their time for other duties.
Det Ch Supt Roper said: “What they will be required to do is tackle anti-social behaviour and that kind of thing – you should be seeing the same [police] faces on the streets.”
Det Ch Supt Roper also expressed sorrow about the “cruel” burglaries in Belsize Park over the winter and promised to go out in plain clothes with a CSNB member on a weekend to experience early-morning Camden streets firsthand.
When Belsize councillor Jonny Bucknell asked her if there was a “danger that if you have an area of high crime in Islington it’s going to take your eye off the ball in Camden”, Det Ch Supt Roper reassured him that would not be the case.
Det Ch Supt Roper also expressed an interest in meeting with members of charity Community Security Trust, which protects Jewish communities from anti-Semitism and other crimes.
Councillor for Hampstead Town Stephen Stark said: “The Jewish community really welcomes this engagement with the police.”