Safer Neighbourhood panel has not been gagged

As chairwoman of the Highgate ward Safer Neighbourhoods Panel, I felt compelled to respond to articles and letters regarding problems with some of the other panels featured in the Ham&High. There are 18 panels in Camden and the problems you highlight are

As chairwoman of the Highgate ward Safer Neighbourhoods Panel, I felt compelled to respond to articles and letters regarding problems with some of the other panels featured in the Ham&High.

There are 18 panels in Camden and the problems you highlight are not at all indicative of all panels - especially our own. There is no "total collapse of confidence" in our ward.

The Highgate panel is probably one of the largest with 21 members. These include citizen representatives from all over our ward.

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Highgate ward - or indeed the village - lives in expensive mansions or are celebrities.


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We are just ordinary citizens. Our ward covers from Hampstead Lane down to the borders of Gospel Oak and Tufnell Park.

We are a diverse group in all respects - age, gender, ethnicity and walks of life. But we all have one important thing in common. And that is we share an overriding concern for our community and want to live as safely and secure as we can in such a vibrant city as ours.

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When our panel was set up, we immediately adopted a written constitution. In any group, especially one as large as ours, there are group dynamics to deal with and the point was made to panel members that this could not be about personal agendas or power play. It had to be about the greater good for the area in which we all lived.

We had to realise that we had to work together as a panel, with our team and with other Camden agencies in a consensual manner.

We set our own priorities and were not told what these should be. Minutes of our meetings are always noted and available for inspection and we now have a website.

We have total consensus on our panel. We discuss everything openly and have never experienced any form of 'gagging' by our police team or indeed our inspectors. In fact, the opposite.

We make our aims and what we want our team to do very clear and very strongly.

Our police team listens to our concerns and works with us to achieve our priorities within, may I say, very limited resources.

Our expectations as citizens are high. The reality is the resources are not there to the extent that we as citizens - and no doubt the police - would like.

Many wards in Camden have greater problems than within ours. However, everything is relative to where you live and the only way to make a difference is to work together. Community policing makes a difference. That's what this whole initiative is about. We do not live in isolated bubbles.

What happens down in Kentish Town or Chester Road has a knock-on effect elsewhere.

Information is shared between teams and communication between all agencies and panels is improving. There are obviously certain issues which are of a confidential nature in any policing situation and no doubt our panel and others have to take this on board.

However, our democratic right to air our views has not been stifled in the Highgate ward.

I, as chairwoman, would like to reassure the community within the Highgate ward that your panel representatives and the police team assigned to us are doing a great job to the best of their abilities and resources available.

Of course, everything in the garden isn't rosy. There will always be safety and environment issues living in a fabulous big city such as ours. But we will continue to represent our ward in an open democratic manner. We all want the same thing. So let's move on and work towards it.

Avril Castellazzo

Chairwoman, Highgate Ward Safer Neighbourhoods Panel

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