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Calls for more security after raids at Hampstead church

PUBLISHED: 18:00 30 September 2016

Sherriff Centre post office raided

Sherriff Centre post office raided

Archant

A church community centre is considering stepping up security after its post office was raided for the second time this year.

However the centre’s management has told the Ham&High it cannot afford to bring in a security guard and parents have said they’d prefer the centre to remain unpatrolled.

The staff have reassured the public that the Sherriff Centre, in St James’s Church, Sherriff Road, is a suitable premises for the post office, despite it also housing the children’s play area Hullabaloo.

The church opened its doors to West Hampstead post office in 2014 when the former West End Lane branch faced closure. Residents celebrated the opening of the new community hub, which brought with it a cafe and retail space.

But concerns about security were raised in January this year when a robber attacked a security van driver, snatching the £6,000 he was delivering. The post office was hit again on Saturday when a man in a camouflage jacket with “wanted” written on the back grabbed cash from the till.

Centre manager Jane Edwards said: “Yes this attack makes me more concerned but I’m very realistic about the times we live in. All across the country post offices are targeted. Are we any more vulnerable? I’m not sure we are. Everyone acted fantastically, taking photos as he made off and phoning police immediately.”

Ms Edwards stressed the centre follows post office guidelines, constantly trains staff and does not keep large sums of cash on site.

“We’re always looking at ways of improving what we’re doing. We are not in a position to appoint a security guard because, as a social enterprise, we cannot afford it. But we will be looking at anything that we can do instantly, maybe bringing in more CCTV, or seeing if there’s anything procedurally that we can do better.”

Ramsey Sargent visits the centre every few weeks with her one-year-old daughter. She said: “It feels like a safe haven. Even the two incidents only targeted the post office, not the other areas. It makes sense to have security when money is being brought in and out, but not the rest of the time. It would spoil the atmosphere.”

West Hampstead councillor Phil Rosenberg called the attacks “completely reprehensible”. He said: “Such an attack is terrible in all circumstances. But particularly to target such an important community hub is absolutely appalling.

“This attack is concerning but at the end of the day West Hampstead is a fairly safe area. We need to make sure intruders are deterred and there needs to be adequate security.”

Lorna Russell, councillor for Fortune Green ward, warned the incident at the Sherriff Centre was not unique. “The number of recent robberies targeting shops, amenities and residents in West Hampstead is a concern, as this incident at the Sherriff Centre is not isolated.”

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