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Reported crime could fall if police front counters are closed in Hampstead and West Hampstead, claim campaigners

PUBLISHED: 15:00 16 March 2013

Campaigners in front of Hampstead Police Station. Picture: Polly Hancock

Campaigners in front of Hampstead Police Station. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Official crime figures could become wildly inaccurate and police efforts to tackle crime hampered if plans to shut Hampstead and West Hampstead stations to the public are given a green light, campaigners claim.

Plans for policing in Camden

* Hampstead, West Hampstead and Albany Street police station front counters would close to the public

* Kentish Town would be the only police station in the north of the borough, but front counter opening hours would be scaled back to 40 a week

* Holborn police station would be the only 24-hour police station in the borough

* The front counters will be replaced with alternative contact points in community centres, hospitals and coffee shops

A new survey of almost 550 people living in Hampstead and West Hampstead has shown that almost 70 per cent of victims and witnesses of crime fail to report incidents.

Residents say the closure of the two police station front counters would all but stem the flow of information to the police, jeopardising their ability to deploy their forces effectively.

Roger Montgomery, co-ordinator of the Belsize Crescent Neighbourhood Watch, which has 80 members, said he regretted failing to report a case of criminal damage when a vandal smashed both of his car’s wing mirrors.

“People should report these crimes even after the event and even though the police don’t have the means to find the bad guys,” he said. “The police keep really accurate maps that help them target the area where these things are happening so they can establish their modus operandi.”

Peter Burian, vice chairman of the Hampstead Safer Neighbourhoods Panel, said minor crimes like vandalism and criminal damage often go unreported because of a “grin and bear it” attitude.

“The problem is that if we don’t bloody well report the crimes the police figures will be hopelessly inaccurate,” said Mr Burian, of the Vale of Health, Hampstead.

“The police love to beat people over the head with statistics and they will say crime is down in Hampstead when it isn’t. But if people don’t report the crime they cannot complain if the police move their resources elsewhere.”

Last week Cllr Simon Marcus, who carried out the survey, submitted his findings to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) which helps to shape policing strategy across the capital.

In a letter to the Ham&High supporting the community’s campaign to keep Hampstead and West Hampstead stations open, he wrote: “I argued that if unreported crime is already high, any reduction in police presence could well send it higher, leading to official crime statistics becoming a ‘tip of the iceberg’.

“I believe this kind of evidence should be insurmountable in persuading MOPAC to our cause.”

Camden’s deputy borough commander, Gary Buttercase, said community police teams provided good face-to-face contact with residents. He said: “There has been a decrease in crimes reported to front counters. The introduction of the 101 non-emergency number and our ability to diary appointments, coupled with internet access, means greater flexibility to access our services. These facilities make crime reporting easier and more convenient.”

He added: “If you find you are a victim of crime, we encourage you to report it and in the 21st century, this can now be done in a number of ways. We are here to keep you safe and we can only do that with the public’s help.”

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