Back to the 1830s: Greenwich town centre may lose its Police station

Greenwich (2)There has been a Police Station in Greenwich town centre (originally  on Park Row, and nowadays on Burney Street) since the 1830s. But very soon there could be no police building at all in  this part of the borough.

Boris Johnson’s proposals for police station closures  (being consulted on at http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/policing-and-crime/community-engagement) hit this part of the borough hard. The only two police stations left open in Greenwich Borough would be Plumstead and Eltham. Greenwich, Woolwich and Thamesmead Police stations are to be closed and sold off, leaving no police stations at all in  SE10 or SE7.

The police do have a “patrol base” on  Warspite Road in Woolwich, which has no public access. Under the current plans, this would be the closest police building to Greenwich town centre – apart from the tiny police office on Old Dover Road, above Marks and Spencer’s, where the safer neighbourhood  teams for Blackheath Westcombe and Kidbrooke Hornfair wards are based, and a similar office on Springfield Grove in Charlton.

So far there are no plans to close the police office on Old Dover Road. But as well as closing buildings, the Mayor wants to cut police numbers too. The numbers of officers in each Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) may be reduced from six (one sergeant, two PCs and three PCSOs) to a minimum of just two (a sergeant and a PC). Indeed, these cuts have already started: Blackheath Westcombe ward already shares a sergeant with the neighbouring Kidbrooke Hornfair ward, meaning one sergeant has to cover an area stretching all the way from Maze Hill station to the South Circular Road.

There was much discussion at a consultation meeting, held earlier this evening at the University of Greenwich, about how people report crime has changed. True, more and more people now report crime by email or phone, so the need for public counters may have decreased.

But there was no word from the Met about the logistics of policing a busy town centre like Greenwich, which is often choked with traffic, without a police building there of some kind. Instead we have  the promise of “Borough Tasking teams” – a recipe for more centralisation, less neighbourhood policing, and officers who are increasingly remote from the communities they serve.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Greenhalgh, who was on the top table at the meeting, claimed that overall police officer numbers were going up by 65 in Greenwich, with officers in SNTs going up from 50 to 128. But he admitted PCSO numbers were being cut further from 60 to 34 (in 2010, there were 120 PCSOs).

Greenhalgh’s claims of police number increases are misleading, as they compare 2011 figures with the projected number for 2015: conveniently forgetting that there was an earlier round of cuts in 2010. If you look at numbers for 2010, police numbers are actually falling and are set to fall further – from a total of 693 officers in Greenwich in 2010 to a “promise” of 615 officers in 2015.

Tellingly, the deputy Mayor did not challenge the figures put to him about officer reductions, or the fact that SNTs were being reduced to minimum of one sergeant and one PC.

There were about forty people at tonight’s meeting (if you remove police officers, councillors like me, and Nick Raynsford MP from the numbers) and many of them expressed incomprehension about the plan to have no police building at all in or near Greenwich Town Centre.

Greenhalgh admitted there were already few officers based at Burney Street, as most officers covering the Greenwich area “parade” (i.e. report for duty) at Warspite Road nowadays. But the Police Station on Burney Street  has a key role as the home to the Safer Neighbourhood police teams for two wards (Greenwich West and Peninsula) and there is clearly no plan for an alternative base for them locally. The Peninsula ward police team used to be based at Westcombe Park Police station on Westerdale Road  until that was closed down a couple of years ago (it now has planning permission for conversion into flats), so will now have to relocate a second time.

Vague assurances that there is an ‘ambition’ for a new police base for Greenwich West and Peninsula SNTs in or near Greenwich town centre,”if we can”, and that the Police were “actively exploring co-location options in Greenwich town centre” cut little ice. Boris Johnson has repeatedly promised that current police stations would only close AFTER an alternative police presence has been opened nearby – not before. This is clearly a promise that is being broken.

These proposals could mean there will be no police station in Greenwich town centre for the first time in 180 years. The Metropolitan Police Act 1829 defined the original Metropolitan Police District as an area of about seven miles radius from Charing Cross. Within the next year seventeen police divisions were set up: “R – Greenwich” being one of them.

A police station on Park Row was built shortly afterwards, rebuilt in 1908, only to then be destroyed by wartime bombing and replaced by the current building on Burney Street (see here for the Greenwich Phantom’s excellent potted history).

If Boris Johnson has his way, this long history of a police presence in Greenwich town centre could be about to end. What a shambles.

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3 Responses to Back to the 1830s: Greenwich town centre may lose its Police station

  1. Pingback: Police stations closed, police numbers down, crime up: how the Tories are ruining neighbourhood policing | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

  2. tammy alingham says:

    what can you expect from a Mayor from Wales and Oxford who has no knowledge about London?

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