Labour's man Stuart King writes to Putney

Voting for the Mayor & the relationship between crime and politics

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Later this year we vote for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. One of the crucial issues in these elections will be crime and policing. I welcome that debate because there are real differences between Labour who introduced and fund Police Community Support teams, and the Conservatives and Lib Dems who opposed their introduction every step of the way.

It’s often the case that one particularly unusual or unpleasant crime can skew attitudes and opinions away from the reality of the situation. Locally, a good example of this was the horrible attack by two dangerous dogs on a man walking his pet last year.

It’s because horrible attacks like this are so rare that they are so shocking and generate such debate: the thread about that attack on the putneysw15 discussion forum exceeded 100 contributions. And when people debate such an incident so much, that in itself can make the problem appear greater than it is.

Sometimes these incidents are used rather cynically to try to make wider political points. You might be forgiven for believing that Putney was a crime hotspot from some of the misinformation put about by Conservative councillors and the MP. In reality, we live in one of the safest parts of London: crime in every single Putney ward (including Roehampton) is lower than the London average.

Last year I started publishing local crime figures on my website, broken down into types of offence and by each of the constituency’s six wards. You can view the latest figures up to November here; alongside a comparison with the situation in October.

Another trick often used by those who would prefer to exploit fear of crime rather than work to reduce it is to play politics with police numbers. Wandsworth has 15 more Police Officers than it did under the Conservatives – 74 more if our Community Support Officers are included, as I think they should be. Crime is down in Putney because extra police and CSOs on the streets are cutting crime.

I think Safer Neighbourhood Police teams are the most significant development in tackling crime the Capital has seen in recent years. They are a direct response to the entirely reasonable demand people have to see a uniformed presence on their street. They exist specifically to tackle what is often called “low level” crime – but which is often the most hurtful, intimidating, damaging crime to affect us. They are slowly rebuilding the link the police used to have with communities: when we knew who our copper was by name; and he or she knew us too. Find out more about your local team, and how to contact them here.

There remain challenges facing our Police. We have to get to grips with gang crime and knife violence, as was seen in three stabbing incidents over the Christmas period. I support 100% the extra £78m of investment in youth facilities that has been jointly pledged by the Labour Government and Ken Livingstone. This money – which cannot be used to subsidise existing council youth services, will help open new schemes or extend the hours of existing ones. Most people I speak to accept that spending more money on youth facilities is the obvious way to try and tackle youth crime. It won’t work alone, but it will make a big impact.

We also need to accept that areas that have more problems deserve more support: the Tory argument that every area, regardless of its crime level, should have exactly the same number of Police is ridiculous and it’s time that got pointed out a bit louder. The fact that we have lower crime levels than Southwark or Lambeth is something we should be pleased about – its one of the reasons why many people decide to move to places like Putney.

I write regularly about policing issues – and plenty else on my website – Do check it out – it’s been overhauled for the New Year. And if you have a Facebook account, please join my Stuart King for Putney group: another great way to keep up to date with my campaign.

Stuart King

Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Putney

February 1, 2008