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'MORE LONDONERS TO POLICE LONDON'S STREETS - COMMUNITY POLICING IS THE WAY FORWARD'

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Metropolitan Police Authority chair Toby Harris emphasised the need to recruit Londoners as police officers - peopl...
Metropolitan Police Authority chair Toby Harris emphasised the need to recruit Londoners as police officers - people who know their city and their community and really want to serve it.

He told delegates at 'The London Conference' on Saturday that community policing is absolutely central to making London the safest city in the world and the Met needs Londoners who are representative of the vibrant mix of communities they will be policing.

He said: 'Londoners will have a head start in understanding our complex and exciting city. We don't just need 35,000 officers - we need 35,000 officers from a range of backgrounds, cultures and experiences. And we will find that if we concentrate on recruiting Londoners.

'Londoners have told us loud and clear that seeing more officers on their streets makes them feel safer and drives down the fear of crime. The truth is that although the MPS are making more arrests and disrupting more criminals, people in our communities simply don't feel safe. Public perception of police performance and crime is different to that of police professionals and politicians. A 'success gap' has been created. Our commitment to the new community based policing teams is intended to bridge that gap. We aim to deliver a level of local policing in London that will make a tangible difference to people's lives - neighbourhood teams that are visible, familiar and accessible. Londoners will see and feel the difference.

'Since the MPA came into being, a little more than three years ago, uniformed officer numbers have grown to over 30,000. However, at the same time the MPS workload has also increased. In order to respond successfully to issues such as increased anti terrorism patrols post 9/11 and the rise in street crime, officers have had to be diverted from other core activities. Recent events bear witness to this - street crime went up by 20% when police were moved into central London for President Bush's State visit - clear evidence that when officers are taken from high crime areas, criminals feel more confident and communities suffer.

'The Step Change programme will see a style of policing which will ensure that that the Met engages with the people of London and provides an agreed level of permanently allocated staff to each neighbourhood - a local team that will always be there. The programme will be phased in from April 2004 with three neighbourhood teams in each borough. Vitally these officers will be ring fenced enabling them to make an effective and consistent commitment to their specific community.

'Consultation is key to this programme and a comprehensive London wide strategy is being developed so that communities and partners are fully engaged in the implementation and roll out of community based policing. It is also crucial that the impact of extra officers can be clearly linked to performance improvement. Local communities and partners must therefore be involved in defining the measures of success appropriate to their local needs.

'Clearly this programme cannot be achieved without considerable additional investment in the MPS. But the return on that investment will be a new level of service dedicated to making each and every community safer. Londoners have told us what they want - a police service that responds effectively to emergences but also has strong links to its communities on a day to day basis, through accessible and visible local uniformed officers, ring fenced for that role. We think 35,000 is the right number to deliver that service across London.'

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