Making Islington a Safer Place: Reducing Crime through Community Dialogue

In the past year crime has continued to fall, making Islington one of the safest boroughs in London. However, as I make plans for policing Islington in the new financial year I am presented with a number of challenges. The Metropolitan Police Service has to deliver a better service for the people of London with less money and potentially fewer resources than before, which means it is more important than ever that communities work with us to keep crime down. Despite the difficulties we face in the current climate, I don’t want people in Islington to lose sight of the fact that incidents of violent crime, robbery and burglary are down, and the police have had successes tackling domestic violence, race and hate crime. Falling crime over the last five years in an inner city borough is no small accomplishment; it is the result of close working with Islington Council, charities, local businesses, and members of the community. Crime is a social issue and its root causes can be tackled with a multifarious approach, if the public and voluntary sectors work with the many communities and families in the borough.

Our 16 Safer Neighbourhoods Teams (SNTs) continue to focus on working with the diverse communities and young people in the borough to ensure we are responding to everyone’s priorities. These teams have expert knowledge of their local communities, and officers develop relationships with local people from a range of different social groups no matter their ethnic origin, faith, gender, ability and or age. In addition to building relationships with local people, the community actually decides what the policing priorities should be through each team’s public ward panel meetings. Finally, whenever issues are identified in an area, SNT officers work with the relevant authorities, businesses and charities to come up with sustainable solutions to address these for the long term. A recent project that has helped to tackle anti-social behaviour and crime, outlined below, serves as an outstanding example of how the police can successfully work with community groups and other partners. There had been a problem with a large group of boys engaging in anti-social behaviour and disorder on some estates in Finsbury Park and Highbury West, which was creating an intimidating environment for local residents. Rather than just focusing on enforcement, Finsbury Park SNT worked with the Islington Somali Community, St Marks Church and the council to address this problem. Youth workers and street pastors from the church approached the group of boys and found out they were frustrated because they had been struggling at school. Following this, the community groups set up a homework club and workshops on a number of subjects including alcohol and substance misuse, gangs and religious extremism, and since then these issues have been resolved. The cohesion between the two different community groups and their partnership with the police and council not only reduced crime in this area but gave these teenagers the support to focus on their futures.

We are committed to encouraging young people to get involved with positive activities instead of getting caught up in gangs or crime. We have a police Youth Engagement team that works with young people who are on the fringes of crime to help them make different choices. This is a multi-agency approach, and the team liaises with Islington Council, Arsenal Football Club, and charities like XLP to provide alternatives for young people. Police Constables and Police Community Support Officers are assigned to primary and secondary schools across the borough, where they give advice to students and teachers, and can help deal with any issues that arise at schools. London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and its police force is committed to reflecting that diversity and ensuring that our services are accessible to everybody. We encourage people of all backgrounds to get in contact with their local SNT to find out about the services we can provide or assist with. Nothing we achieve can be done in isolation, and it is important that we all take some responsibility to tackle crime and improve community safety.

*The ideas expressed in this column are solely the opinions of the author and not necessarily of the Dialogue Society

Mike Wise

Mike Wise

Islington Police Borough Commander

Chief Superintendent Mike Wise, who has over 27 years of policing experience, joined Islington Police as Borough Commander in June 2009.

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