Hampstead Town and Highgate could lose neighbourhood police officers as cops set to depart

Hampstead Town and Highgate wards could end up without any dedicated ward officers (DWOs). Picture:

Hampstead Town and Highgate wards could end up without any dedicated ward officers (DWOs). Picture: Ken Mears/Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Hampstead Town and Highgate could be without neighbourhood policing officers within months, the Ham&High can reveal.

Both wards should have two dedicated ward officers (DWOs) as part of the Metropolitan Police's safer neighbourhood team (SNT) programme.

Yet Hampstead Town is already down to one remaining Pc. The other, Saf Karim, left the force last week. The remaining officer is due to go on maternity leave within months. Next door, Highgate is down to one Pc, who is set to leave the job at the start of July.

Mary Selfes, who chairs Highgate Safer Neighbourhood Panel (SNP) said the ward has been through five Pcs in the last 18 months.

Both wards have a PCSO, who has lesser powers than a Pc, and share a sergeant with two other wards.

The vacancies and looming gap in the SNTs makes it harder for the community and safer neighbourhood panels to pass on concerns about crime in wards.

Ms Selfes said: "We support the initiative but we have found it difficult over the last few years, with the huge turnover of the DWOs.

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"It is almost impossible or to have links with the community when you don't have officers in post for very long."

Chair of Hampstead Town SNP, Susan West, said the scheme was in crisis.

"It has fallen apart quite seriously. There are real issues with retention of Pcs. It's not just recruiting them, but it's getting them trained."

Insp Richard Berns, who leads Camden and Islington's neighbourhood teams confirmed that the remaining DWO in Hampstead Town will be going on maternity leave within months, and there will not be any cover in her absence. He said he would try to fill the three vacant posts "as soon as possible."

Hampstead Town councillor Oliver Cooper said residents were feeling the impact of a lack of Pcs.

"This week, I've been trying to get the police to advise on a licensing issue that's made Hampstead residents' lives miserable, and that only a designated ward officer would know intimately enough to intervene. The direct link between local residents and local police is vital and at the core of the Met's 190-year-old tradition of "policing by consent".

"This is sadly about Met deprioritising community policing. The government has this year increased police funding by £1bn - the largest rise ever. Despite promising two constables in every ward, the Mayor has instead prioritised desk officers, but there's only so much work that can be done behind a desk without local police that know what makes communities tick."