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Cost-cutting cops set to merge with Camden in new year

Commander Catherine Roper will oversee police in both boroughs after Islington a

Commander Catherine Roper will oversee police in both boroughs after Islington and Camden join forces

Published: 25 November, 2016
by KOOS COUVÉE and WILLIAM McLENNAN 

SWEEPING changes aimed at cutting costs will see Islington’s dedicated police force combined with neighbouring Camden next year. 

Senior figures within Islington Police and the Town Hall have said the move should make it easier to tackle street gangs such as Easy Cash, also known as EC1, which operates in Finsbury, Clerkenwell and in parts of Camden.

The boroughs’ police teams will be unified from January in a trial that Met chiefs have billed as “modernising the Metropolitan Police Service”. 

But critics have said it is a merely a cost-cutting exercise and raised concerns about the impact on the effectiveness of local police.

The two police forces are already working closely together to tackle phone-snatching and other crimes committed on bikes and mopeds as part of Operation Attrition.

The move will see Camden’s most senior officer, Penny Banham, leave her post, with Islington’s commander Catherine Roper overseeing both boroughs and a residential population of more than 400,000.  

Chief Superintendent Roper told the Tribune: “We are all aware that there are financial challenges facing the Metropolitan Police Service, that’s not a secret, but the drive for this is making sure that we provide the best service we can for members of the ­public.”

Questions remain around how the merger would affect officers, with concerns over the operation of “emergency response teams”, which respond to 999 calls. They are currently based in Tolpuddle Street, near Angel, but officers are unclear if they will now be called upon to attend emergencies in far-flung corners of Camden. 

Chief Supt Roper said the merger, which will see Camden and Islington become one Basic Command Unit (BCU), would allow them to “flex our resources across the entire geographical area”. 

She said: “That doesn’t mean we’ll have somebody in the top right of Camden going to the ­bottom left of Islington. But what you often find is the person who is physically closest, is ­currently owned by another borough. If we have a road that is technically in Camden and a car that is technically in Islington, but they are closest, why wouldn’t we send that person? ­Criminals don’t observe borough boundaries.”

She added: “This is genuinely an incredible opportunity to really drive an improvement in front-line policing. We are still working out some of the technical details on all of this stuff, but equally that’s because it’s under continuous review.” 

The Tribune’s sister paper, the Camden New Journal, first reported on the prospect of a merger in June with Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe saying at the time: “There’s no doubt over the next few years we have got to save £300million and none of the options are easy.”

The changes will not affect the Met’s commitment to introduce ­provide an additional neighbourhood officer to every ward in London, Scotland Yard said. 

Andy Hull, the council’s community safety chief, said the reason for the move was the “funding reality brought about by the Conservative ­government” and said he expected mergers to ­follow across London.

However, he added: “I think it’s better for Islington to be involved in that in an early stage to help shape it. It does mean more neighbourhood policing, bobbies on the beat and more locally ­tailored work on domestic violence and child protection. Sadiq [Khan] has promised that and this merger will deliver it. This will strip out some senior management and put more boots on the ground. Islington residents want to see police patrolling the streets and I’m hoping that it will help get crime down.”

 

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