Concern over rising street crime in Putney

High Street and Lower Richmond Road mugging and bag snatch hotspots

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The Council are appealing to the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA)and the Mayor to increase the number of police officers in the borough after figures showed rising levels of street crime in the area. Parts of Putney in particular are seen as problem areas.

Recent analysis of the street crime figures shows a sharp peak in offences between 3pm and 5pm, with another peak later in the evenings between 11pm and midnight. Street crimes were more prevalant on weekdays rather than at weekends. Tuesdays and Thursdays were both peak days.

Areas featuring important transport links and shops were most likely to suffer higher levels of street crime. The area around Putney High Street and the Lower Richmond Road were also targets for muggers and bag snatchers.

Official police figures show that street crime in Wandsworth - muggings, robberies and "snatch" thefts - rose by 11 per cent last year. And compared to the previous year the volume of street crimes that were solved fell by 16 per cent. The council has renewed its calls on Mayor Livingstone and the MPA to urgently provide more bobbies on the beat in Wandsworth after new figures showed a "worrying" increase in street crime.

Muggings and robberies now account for 71 per cent of street crimes, with the remainder being "snatch" thefts of mainly bags and mobile phones. The borough's increase in street crime is nearly double last year's inner London average of six per cent. The figures have re-ignited the debate about the lack of police officers in Wandsworth. Since February 1997 the borough has lost more than 80 officers to other parts of London.

Earlier this year, Wandsworth's most senior police chief confirmed that the borough suffers from a shortage of officers. Borough Commander Joe Royle told councillors that Wandsworth should have 602 officers, but had been operating "at about 20" below that figure "for a significant part of the year." He added that the borough had "not had its fair share of police officers for some time", and that his efforts to increase the number of constables stationed in the borough had not borne fruit.

The council's executive member for regeneration and community safety Cllr James Cousins said: "This increase in street crime is very worrying. The target for last year was to cut muggings and bag snatches by three per cent, but instead they shot up by 11 per cent. We all know that a visible police presence on the streets is highly likely to deter muggers and bag snatchers, but sadly, the police's efforts to reduce street crime are being hamstrung by a sheer shortage of bobbies on the beat. "

He claimed that officers had been moved from Wandsworth to tackle emerging problems in other areas. Wandsworth's tally of around 580 police officers compares very unfavourably with other parts of London. In Lambeth there are 947 officers, in Lewisham 634, Islington 676, Southwark 856, Camden 807, Tower Hamlets 741 and Hackney 739. In population terms, Wandsworth's has one police officer for every 473 residents. In Camden the figures is one for every 245 residents, in Lambeth it's 280, Islington 260, Southwark 286, Tower Hamlets 264 and Hammersmith & Fulham 319.

Cllr Cousins added: "The council is doing what it can to deter and detect street crime and support the police. Our network of well over 700 CCTV cameras are valuable tools for the police, and they have led to some very important arrests over the years. Both ourselves and the police also do important work in schools to try and educate young people about how to avoid falling victim to robbers. But the most important factor in deterring criminals in the first place and then making sure they are caught if they do commit offences, is having sufficient numbers of officers on our streets. Overall, Wandsworth remains inner London's safest borough, but if the Mayor and the MPA fail to tackle our shortage of police officers, then the number of street crime victims in this borough is likely to go on rising."

June 9, 2006