Nov 1 2012 By Ian Proctor
VICTIMS of crime and witnesses may be able to report offences and give statements at supermarkets or places of worship as part of the police’s money-saving plans.
The Met Police wants to close nearly half of the quietest front counters across London and replace each with three ‘contact points’, and boost the number of officers on the frontline, while seeking to cut its spending.
It has to save £500m out of an annual budget of £3.6billion, while meeting the Mayor of London’s targets of a 20 per cent reduction in seven neighbourhood crimes and a 20 per cent cut in costs.
Mark Simmons, deputy assistant commissioner, said: “Over the last four years, there’s been something like a 20 per cent decrease in people attending front counters to report crime and to visit overall. If we only used the 71 most used front counters, we could potentially free up as many as 400 officers.
“We are looking at making ourselves more accessible to people in a way that suits citizens as well as suits us.”
He said each closed counter would be replaced by three community contact points based in busy places such as supermarkets and faith centres – the exact locations being decided locally – and confirmed each borough would retain at least one police station open 24 hours a day as a minimum.
Staffing will take a hit, with the Met Police examining whether it can reduce the number of senior officers and if boroughs can share a borough commander – with Harrow and Barnet one such pairing under consideration – or cope with being led by someone at a lower rank.
He said: “We know we can make substantial savings by sharing support across the boroughs.”
Mr Simmons said the Safer Neighbourhood team structure would remain the cornerstone of policing and an extra 2,000 officers would be moved or recruited into frontline policing.
Whether the benchmark of one sergeant, two PCs and three PCSOs is kept would be determined on each ward’s ‘workload and demands’, said the deputy assistant commissioner.
The Met is also considering selling off New Scotland Yard in favour of a different headquarters and moving administrative staff out of central London.
The detail of the proposals will be contained in the Met Police’s draft budget, presented to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime mid-November, to be followed next spring with a public consultation.