The guardian angels who watch over you

COLLECTIVELY, they have been responsible for sprucing up the neighbourhood, cutting car crime and ensuring that police visit burglary victims within 12 hours

Charlotte Newton

COLLECTIVELY, they have been responsible for sprucing up the neighbourhood, cutting car crime and ensuring that police visit burglary victims within 12 hours.

Yet amazingly, most people living in Fortis Green are oblivious to the guardian angels who watch over them and resolve any issues in the area.

Two years ago, the government introduced Safer Neighbourhood Panels to every ward in the Metropolitan Police. And there are now 19 across Haringey.

The aim of the initiative was to inject a sense of community into areas where police used to patrol on foot and to reassure the public by creating effective channels of communication between residents, community leaders and the police.

In short, it was the job of the Safer Neighbourhood Panels to identify issues which were bugging law-abiding citizens and try to resolve them.

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The Fortis Green team is made up of one police sergeant - Dave Bird - two police community support officers and three police officers.

There are also 21 volunteers, including professionals, such as teachers from Fortismere School, councillors, community leaders and residents. The volunteers tip the police off about any issue which has occurred and then officers try to resolve it.

Ward panel chairman John Hajdu said: "People are much happier since we set up the ward panel because they know how to communicate with their local police.

"The visibility of police on the streets is vital. The situation is getting better and, here in Fortis Green, we are showing how a ward panel should be run."

The three issues which the Fortis Green team has identified as needing attention are:

o anti-social behaviour

o speeding

o theft of motor vehicles

Teachers and parents at Fortismere School were concerned about the rise in youth on youth crime - with youngsters being targeted for their mobile phones.

This inspired police officers to take workshops on personal safety as part of the school curriculum.

When Sgt Bird and his officers visited the school last week they highlighted the importance of dialling 999 immediately after an incident and of giving an accurate description of the suspect to the police. This is to enable them to make an arrest and produce evidence that stands up in court.

The community panel is effectively there to listen and act on residents' concerns.

When ward panel members complained that there had been a spate of car thefts, plain-clothed police officers patrolled the streets to catch car criminals.

Equally, when a newcomer to the area was burgled, Mr Hajdu informed Sgt Bird and police officers visited the lady within 12 hours of the incident happening to reassure her.

Sgt Bird: "The ward panel allows us to concentrate on issues that affect the quality of life of local residents that perhaps two years ago we would not have been aware of."

Mr Hajdu added: "The brilliant thing about ward panels is the co-operation and interaction between local residents and the police and the rapid reaction as a result of that."

The communication system between members means that any persistent problem, such as littering or graffiti, is fed into the panel.

And since council officers sit alongside police officers there is instant action.

"It is important for people to know what the ward panel is doing for them and what a fantastic job the police are doing to make our neighbourhood safer," Mr Hajdu said.