Local businesswoman Dominique Day takes a look around Richmond and finds a community worried by the rise in crime. In the past year she has been the victim of thieves on two occasions but saw no resolution in either case.
My car was broken into exactly a year ago. I lost my bag and laptop – and worst of all, my feeling of security on Richmond Hill. A friend who works nearby updated me on the backstory: apparently a gang of helmeted motorcyclists drive around the area shining torches into parked cars. Vehicles with glass boots are particularly vulnerable – the gang use metal wrenches to break the glass. They complete their thefts with incredible rapidity and disperse using several of the arteries running out of town which subsequently morph into motorways. The motorcycles do not display any number plates, making it impossible to identify their owners.
Or is it? Other sources allege that the police know who the gangs are but lack the resources to engage them. Local Police Community Support Officer Guinnie Mooneesawmy advises we report all criminal activity – but once the police have been alerted, do we actually expect them to turn up and investigate, find the perpetrators and restore our belongings to our grateful bosoms, or will our story be nothing more than a footnote in the annals of the police crime statistics? I did as Guinnie asked but the crime was ‘closed’ after I’d been presented with the holy grail of police response – the crime reference number.
Friends in Richmond report equally distressing and increasingly violent crimes, such as a break-in at a charity concern which had to relocate operations while the police checked for finger-prints – only for the investigation to be closed without result some time later.
As all this was happening we learnt that we were losing our newly equipped police station, which had just moved from Paradise Road to the Richmond roundabout at enormous cost to local taxpayers. In the event, the Richmond unit and those from the surrounding boroughs of Wandsworth, Kingston and Merton were merged to form a single, rather top-heavy Borough Command Unit.
Unfortunately, figures show that the merger hasn’t turned out the way the Home Office anticipated. Not having a local police station and relying on vehicle support from Twickenham, known for its high levels of traffic congestion, has lengthened the police response time to 17 minutes, one of the slowest in the Metropolitan Area. The target time is 15 minutes maximum.
Sally Benatar, South West BCU Commander, said she has been monitoring the response to emergency calls. “Whilst response times remain in line with the Metropolitan Police average in Merton and Wandsworth Boroughs, they have increased for both Kingston and Richmond Boroughs,” she said. “We are taking a number of steps to reduce response times in the face of increasing operational demand across the four boroughs.
“One of these steps is to reduce the pressure on officers by diverting calls that don’t require a face-to-face response to our Local Resolution Team or Telephone and Digital Investigation Unit – though of course we do try to ensure that the most appropriate response is provided to each caller according to their need and the level of risk.”
A couple of weeks ago, youths charged into the premises of a local health club. A quick-thinking female receptionist stopped them from running amok and ransacking the place. She didn’t think it was worth calling the police since – in her own words – all she would get would be a crime number.
Richmond has always been one of the most beautiful and peaceful parts of London, but sadly, that seems to be changing. And the police appear unable to do anything about it.