Posts Tagged crime

Strike a light

Despite real fears about crime, the figures are getting better. Crime fell 14% in Islington last year, and the Lib Dem Council is funding a new team to support crime victims and work with residents to increase the number of anti-social behaviour cases going to court.

Meanwhile one Finsbury resident has been jailed for a year for a rather unusual crime. Andrew McKee from Hermit Street, EC1 was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for ‘recklessly and negligently endangering an aircraft’ – despite never leaving the ground.

Back in July 2007, the Metropolitan Police helicopter was on an operation over Hermit Street, when a green laser light was shone directly into the cockpit, several times.

The police traced the laser back to Mr McKee and charged him under Article 73 of the Air Navigation Order 2005. MoD scientists and the helicopter pilot gave evidence that shining the laser into the cockpit did put the aircraft, its passengers (and of course all the people living below including Mr McKee and his family) at risk.

I don’t expect the Met Police have much call to apply the Air Navigation Order, airports apart, but it could have its uses.

Article 66 of the same Order, you will be glad to know, prohibits dropping animals from an aircraft in flight (‘whether or not attached to a parachute’); while article 50 requires one pilot to remain at the controls at all times while it is in flight. Makes sense to me.

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Reducing the risk of burglary

A helpful email arrives from Islington police:

“Islington Police are cracking down on burglars this summer, this has resulted in the arrest of eleven suspected burglars. Of these, one has already pleaded guilty at court, while the others are awaiting trial. This will make a significant difference to the number of burglaries in Islington.

“Most burglaries happen in summer when thieves simply enter homes through open doors and windows. Reducing burglary is one of the main priorities that Islington Police is tackling.

“Crime Prevention Advice
It is important to take sensible steps to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of burglary.
Remember that an open window may allow more than a cool breeze to enter your home.
If you must leave a window open consider installing an internal collapsible locking grille.
Before you go to bed check that all accessible windows upstairs and downstairs are securely closed and locked. This includes small fanlight windows.
Make sure that even when you are sitting watching TV your back door is properly closed and locked. If you have a UPVC front door check that all locks are in place by lifting the handle. Once you have done so, lock the locks into place by turning the key.
Know where your keys are at all times in case you need to leave in an emergency, but don’t leave them in view of a door.”

I suspect the disappointing weather is also putting a damper on local thieves…

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Another stabbing on the Cally….

… but this latest incident does not seem to be the kind of youth street crime that caused so much distress last year.

It appears to be a stabbing incident inside a flat, involving an older man. Still disturbing, still tragic – but not in itself evidence that our streets are less safe.

I will update with any more news as I get it.

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Reporting from the ‘war zone’

I’ve blogged before about the Guardian being unfair about the Cally. Now the Independent has done the same.

I usually like reading the Independent, not just because it gives the Lib Dems a fairer hearing than most, but because it tends generally to have a sensible, humane, small l liberal approach.

Columnists like Deborah Orr give a welcome common-sense counterpoint to the hysterical hyping that can happen, particularly on issues like crime.

Not so much, however, in last week’s piece about Cally and Holloway by Amol Rajan. As its lurid headline “The war zone: How the notorious London neighbourhood they call the ‘V’ is fighting for its life” suggests, the article would not be amiss in the Daily Mail, from its description of “feral youth” to characterising the whole area between York Way and the Cally as a “war zone”. He even uses the phrase “tabloid stereotype” apparently without irony.

What’s the reality on the ground? No-one denies that the Cally has problems – hence the recent dispersal zone – but it also has many positive things going for it, not least its community spirit.

Last week I was door-knocking on the Bemerton estate with my team. Worries about lifts and leaseholder charges were the main issues. The week before on North Road, it was recycling facilities, the local park and bus routes. People worry about crime, housing, and making ends meet. Ordinary folk, with ordinary concerns; not a war zone.

On Friday morning I happened to have coffee with a friend at Gran Sasso, a neighbourhood Italian cafe on the Cally. We were talking about how, despite some high profile cases, the area is much cleaner and safer than it was when we first lived there years ago. Also in the cafe, two of the local Safer Neighbourhood Team were meeting a community activist who is a leading supporter of the Cally-based Copenhagen Youth Project. That’s typical of the area.

Every week there are examples of good people doing good things. On Saturday the York Way estate held its successful fun day; the week before it was the Lumpy Hill adventure playground fun day. On Thursday night I was talking with one of the community safety officers about progress tackling vice crime around Market Road. On Sunday I had tea with some members of Islington Veterans Association, who meet at Fr Jim’s church, just off the Cally. Tonight I’ll be applauding Islington Youth Theatre, based near North Road, as they perform at the National.

St Andrew’s School, which serves the Cally, is an outstanding school that has just appointed an outstanding head. This week Sparkplug, an excellent youth motorbike project, has its annual award ceremony. The Times Boxing Club is getting extra funding from the Council. And so it goes on.

Now the Indy has printed a response from the borough Police commander plus a joint letter from Cllr Terry Stacy, the Lib Dem council leader with Paul Convery (one of the Labour local councillors for the Caledonian ward) and Fr Jim Kennedy the well-respected local priest. They reject the idea that the area is a “war zone” and point to the good work of many local groups. But will their letters catch the eye the way the original article did?

Rajan’s piece is full of inaccuracies. He says the local landmarks are the prisons, without mentioning the Cally clocktower, City & Islington College or Kings Cross station. He talks about the Prospex charity being homeless, without mentioning that it’s been offered a home by a local church (subject to planning permission…). He calls the area the ‘V’, not a name I’ve ever heard used for the place, while in the same breath saying that it has no official name (er, what about North Kings Cross?) and then agreeing that it is known locally as the Cally.

The article strikes me as a tasteless piggy-backing on the death of Ben Kinsella, without any real understanding of the community that is still mourning him. There’s never been any suggestion that Ben was killed because he was on ‘someone else’s turf’.

The ‘V’ that springs to my mind for Mr Rajan is the one formed with two fingers.

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Community policing, not big brother

The death of Ian Tomlinson at last week’s G20 protests was a tragedy that has shocked many people. It raises worrying questions about police accountability.

Liberal Democrat MPs were in attendance to observe both sides of the protest. David Howarth MP has called the incident ‘sickening’, and is demanding a full-scale criminal investigation into Mr Tomlinson’s death. In tense situations, we expect the police to set the best example, not descend into the worst behaviour.

It’s important that communities have good relationships with the police who serve us. Here in Islington, the Safer Neighbourhood Teams in each ward meet regularly with the public to set their ward priorities, and they produce regular news letters reporting back to the community.

The SNT meetings that I’ve attended have produced some real results, from extra security measures on estates to deploying youth workers in a particular area. In St Mary’s ward, after reports from concerned residents, a drug dealer was arrested and has now been charged with possession with intent to supply a class A drug.

But too often I still find residents telling me of times they contacted the police – to tackle anti-social behaviour, or worse – only to find that the resources are just not there to respond.

Just this week one woman told me of a recent case where her car was attacked by drunken youths on a Friday night. She was too frightened to intervene. She called the SNT: not on duty til Monday. She called 999: they never came (like my own experience).

The next day she had an apologetic phone call and a crime number to give her insurers. Not quite what she wanted. And should she have to go to public meetings to get the police to do their job?

We need more accountable community policing, responding to local people’s needs and priorities; not a faceless force deployed by central government on a big brother agenda.

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Stabbing incident on the Cally

Last night I was hurrying along the Cally on the way to a school governor’s meeting when I saw two or three police cars pulled up, lights flashing, outside the petrol station near Cally Pool.

The word this morning is that three young people may have been stabbed, with one at least reported to be in a critical condition.

The state of the economy may have pushed knife crime out of the headlines, but it is clearly still an issue.

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Joy and sadness in Tottenham

Last night I was at the Londra Gazette Ball at the Regency Ballroom in Bruce Grove.

The Londra Gazette is rightly proud of its unique role as the Turkish community newspaper for London, published in both Turkish and English. The ball was a joyful event, with family groups as well as VIPs, and we all enjoyed the Turkish dancing after dinner. The Regency Ballrooms are regularly used for Turkish wedding celebrations and for many of the guests, it’s a place of happy memories.

I was pleased to be there as a guest of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Turkey. Our table had a mix of young professionals, working in higher education, pharmaceuticals, law and the City. They embody the positive contribution diversity brings to London.

And getting the night bus home, with a typical London mix on board, I felt totally safe, at home, and proud of our city.

It’s doubly shocking therefore to read of the shooting last night of a young man just yards from Bruce Grove in Broadwater Road. I feel for his family and friends, losing a loved one. I hope the police find the criminals quickly. But most of all I hope north Londoners won’t be afraid to lead happy confident positive lives together in our diverse city.

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