Brixton crime plan fails to materialise

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Brixton crime plan fails to materialise – Brixton Blog - Brixton Blog

A much anticipated and packed meeting to hear a joint Lambeth council and Metropolitan police plan to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in Brixton ended in disappointment last night (27 March).

Peter Impey, one of the founders of the grass roots residents’ organisation Action on ASB! (AOASB) which organised the meeting, told the full-capacity audience in St Matthew’s church opposite Lambeth town hall in Brixton: “We’ve worked so hard to try and get the police and the council to work together and this was not what we were expecting.”

It had been four months since an earlier meeting in the town hall had heard both police and council representatives promise a plan.

“We’ve not seen a plan,” said Impey.

“We asked for a plan with measurable actions that we can look at and we can hold the police and council to account to.”

But he had heard nothing during the long meeting that was new. “This is what the police and council are already doing,” Impey said.

Dozens of speakers from the floor of the meeting had given accounts of their fears about being in Brixton and had also dismissed the council-police presentation as inadequate.

Impey said the one of them, Donna, had “said everything I wanted to say”.

She had told the meeting: “I’m completely disappointed with what was presented to us. It lacked strategy. It lacked a plan that had any credibility.

“What it says to me more than anything is that you are not necessarily really aware of what’s going on in this borough.

“Look at the turnout that you have this evening. It shows that the community are happy to come and say what’s affecting them and show a willingness to work with yourselves.

“However, when we come out time and time and time after time,” as an earlier speaker had said, “we walk away feeling, what was all that about? What did we achieve?

“We’ve only got to go down Electric Avenue. I’m sure most people probably just turn around and go back on the bus or down the Underground station. It is really bad.

“What was proposed this evening is like bringing an Elastoplast to put an airplane wing back on. It’s woefully, woefully inadequate.

“We need to see community consultation. We need to see statistics that show performance that has been successful.

“The figures and the drafts that were put up were very weak, and I would not have brought that to any meeting.”

Early in the meeting, the packed hall listened in shocked silence as Thomas Lange, who runs Loved Again secondhand furniture and homeware shop on Stockwell Road, told what happened to him in Brixton.

As he walked home after working late one night, he was approached and asked for £10. “I didn’t have any money on me, so I said I had no money and thought that was it.

“But this person carried on, pursued me. I walked almost home – I live very close to the shop – and he was still behind me.

“I thought, ‘well, I’m not going to show him where I live’, so I’ll walk back towards the shop. And this guy picked up a metal bar from somewhere by the bins, and I thought, this is getting serious.

“I’m not going to walk to the shop. He’s going to smash all the windows. So I took a side turning and walked towards the mosque because, I thought, ‘you know, there are people there’, it’s always good to have people around when something happens.

“Before I knew it, the guy hit me on the head from behind. I just made it into the courtyard, screaming. And the next thing I noticed I was on the floor. The guy hit me about eight times on the head. My eye was damaged. My skull was broken. I’ve got a metal implant.

“The eye was out and split. So I’m blind on one side now, which has affected me quite badly. I can’t do certain things. I can’t drive. I can’t ride a bike.

“I used to be a researcher. I still do that, but it’s a little bit slower because I can’t see very well. So that has has affected me quite severely.

“The one thing I want to say after all this is that you have to bear in mind that we’re talking about somebody’s son here.

“People do things for a reason, and they all have a story behind them. So we must not forget that we have to tackle the cause, not just the symptoms.”

The three MPs who represent different parts of Brixton closed the meeting.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham) said she was very worried about the emphasis that the police and council presentation had put on reporting incidents, because, she said, “it felt like you were gaslighting people”.

Even when MPs reported on behalf of their constituents, “sometimes we are not responded to,” she said. “I don’t think that’s good enough at all.”

People who had suffered wrongdoing felt like they were the one that “ends up with the homework and having to fill out forms and having to do x, y, z – especially when you don’t get the correct response back.”

The MP stressed: “I do want people to understand that the police and the council are in a really, really difficult position when it comes to resources.

“But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be creative with what we do have.” Resources should be redeployed.

“It’s very difficult for me to explain to constituents why six police can jump out of a van to stop one young black boy, but when their house gets robbed, it takes days for somebody to come.”

She echoed earlier speakers from the floor by saying she was disappointed not to hear more about women’s safety.

Helen Hayes (Dulwich & West Norwood) said she shared frustration at what had happened at the meeting but added that it was important to acknowledge and understand how tough it is to be a council officer or police officer working with such constrained resources.

Problems “that we are experiencing now with antisocial behaviour and criminality in the town centre are the worst that I’ve ever known them to be,” she said.

She agreed with Peter Impey that “what we’ve seen this evening is not a plan. In order to do a plan, you need to talk about what you’re trying to affect, what are the problems that you’re trying to solve, who you are doing the plan for, and how it’s going to be measured and implemented. And that’s what we haven’t got yet.”

Hayes said a plan needed to be given visibility. “That means publishing the plan in a single document, not a series of slides that have clearly come from different organisations with different pieces of work.

“The plan needs to have some very, very clear actions. It needs to have timescales attached to the actions. It needs to have resources attached to the actions, and it needs to have an accountability framework by which people can come together and see what is being done, and hopefully notice the change in the street, which is what we all actually want to see.”

Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall), who was born and grew up in Brixton’s Barrier Block on the Moorlands estate, said as a child she had woken to look outside and see a blue police tent over a dead body.

“But now, as a mother to a nine-year-old and a six-year-old, I’m scared to walk to Brixton market. That’s the reality of what we are seeing in Brixton.”

Families were stopping having parties in Brixton Rec because it is so unsafe. “There’s open drug dealing, and there’s open everything going on”.

There needed to be a message that Brixton is not for drug dealing. “If you’re going to come with your criminality, we don’t want you here. And that message needs to go out, and that means increasing some of those police patrols.”

Another issue that all three MPs had raised with the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan police commissioner was the “abstraction” of police from Lambeth to deal with events in central London.

The initial results of a survey that received 450 response were reported to the meeting.

Some 78% of respondents thougt Lambeth council did not take anti-social behaviour in Brixton seriously, and 92% thought the council was not effective at dealing with anti-social behaviour in Brixton.

Nearly four out of five respondents, 79%, said anti-social behaviour in Brixton made them feel unsafe and threequarters, 75%, think it is out of control.

Peter Impey, despite the disappointment, told the meeting: “I want us all to work together on this and I want the community to come along on this.

“I don’t want you to feel disheartened and, in a way, I sometimes think the strategy is to grind us all down so we stop coming.

“So, in future meetings, I want that there to be more people here. I want us to double in size and get bigger and bigger and bigger until action has to be taken.”