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Met rethinking neighbourhood groups

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Britain’s largest police force is considering tearing up the map of how it reaches out to people.

Senior metropolitan police officers suspect grouping residents together along artificial political boundaries is flawed.

They have begun to examine redrawing the geography of London along the lines of “natural neighbourhoods”.

Commander Steve Rodhouse, of the Met, said this could make it easier for police to strike up links with groups who need help.

But he said neighbourhood teams remain the “bedrock” of the force and will not be broken up, despite the uncertain financial future.

Speaking at a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), he said the system could be copied by forces across the country.

He said: “What we did is survey a large number of local people and ask how they identified their neighbourhood.

“Many people won’t identify with the name of the political ward; they might identify instead with an estate or part of an estate.

“Sometimes there are geographical boundaries that run across a ward that means an individual would not identify with someone on the other side of the street.

“But commonly our engagement forces them to cross the street to part of the community they do not identify with.

“We want to identify smaller clusters of communities that feel they are joined together.”

News of the proposals comes after the government launched a crime mapping website giving taxpayers a detailed insight into offences taking place on their streets.

Ministers want members of the public to have more say in how their local police force spends its money and prioritises the crimes it faces.

The MPA meeting heard that Neighbourhood Watch groups are an example of how people identify with a certain area that is defined by a number of factors.

Mr Rodhouse denied that the plans represent a “radical” change of course for policing in London.

He added: “At the moment our safer neighbourhood structure is configured on a ward basis and there is no reason to think it will not continue in that way.”

Mr Rodhouse added: “This is not about changing political ward boundaries, this is about understanding how local people identify with their communities.

“That is why we have piloted this scheme in one ward so we can analyse the findings alongside those communities.

“The Metropolitan Police Service is here for London - on the streets and in your community, working with you to make our city safer.”

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