This evening was the first meeting of the municipal year of the Community Safety and Environment Scrutiny Panel. Despite its name, its focus appears to be entirely on the police (so I guess the weeds will continue to grow unchecked and without formal criticism from other Councillors on this committee).
It was an interesting first meeting focused on two areas:-
- The use of Stop and Search powers by the police. An interesting item with a clear focus on ensuring that the public perceives the police’s use of this power as fair (i.e. not disproportionately targeted at one group). The fact that 18.5% of stop and searches now result in an arrest suggests that this is a useful power and the Borough Commander was keen to stress that it was an important part of the fight against violent crime – in particular those who carry knives. However, in the background, was the fact that the use of stop and search has decreased by 60% since 2012. I suspect that this is an area we will return to, not least as the police are keen to ensure everyone knows that they are using this power proportionately and properly.
- The key crime statistics for Greenwich and the rest of London as defined by the Mayor of London. While the overall trend in most of these crime statistics was down, there is an extremely concerning rise in violent crime (up from 2,065 incidents in Greenwich for 2013-14 to 2,522 incidents in 2014-15). A 22% rise in violent crime in a year must be a cause for concern and even though the police in Greenwich do an excellent job relative to other boroughs with crimes like burglary, we can’t avoid returning to this issue in more detail in the future.
The discussion was serious and relevant in a way that I suspect tomorrow evening’s Council meeting won’t be, with Councillors making proper contributions often with drawn from their own wards e.g. I had not realised that the placement of bike storage racks provided such an opportunity for thieves to take large numbers of bikes and hence really increase the bicycle theft figures across the borough.
I’m not sure how much influence the Council has on the overall level of crime, so I’m not sure how we will hold the Cabinet Member to account, however, this is clearly a committee which will deal with important issues which have a real impact on people’s lives.