The latest crime briefing has been published by the Community Safety Division, and below is my attempt at mapping the data.  This will be the last briefing until the New Year and, as usual, the health warnings follow the map.
The map is hosted by Google, and occasionally will not load, or will not load the flags. If it does not display correctly, try refreshing the page or following the link directly under the map.

View Larger Map

  1. Yellow flags represent burglaries and red flags represent street crime reported between 9 and 16 December, 2008.
  2. The briefing only contains details of burglaries and robberies. Other crimes are not included.
  3. You can see more detail by following the link to the Google website.
  4. The flags are not placed precisely (it would be irresponsible to advertise victims of burglary) but instead are spaced roughly equally on the roads they took place. The idea is to give a visual representation of the spread and range of crime in Battersea, rather than pinpointing crime locations.
  5. This map is only for the Battersea parliamentary consitutuency – which is different to the police’s Battersea sector.
  6. While I try to ensure the data is accurate it is reliant on the information I receive, and I’m only human, so it may be mistakes have crept in. Please let me know if you think you’ve spotted one.

What will make you feel safer?  400 more politicians or 700 more police?I missed the news yesterday that the government has u-turned on having directly elected members on police authorities.

I cannot deny that I think this particular u-turn is good news – just the other day I  highlighted the petition on the Number 10 website against it.  But I’m also a bit shocked by Jacqui Smith’s comments.

Apparently her decision was motivated by her desire to avoid ‘politicising’ the police.  This shows a remarkable lack of self-awareness by the Home Secretary, since I can’t think of any government who have been more responsible for politicising the police than the one in which she serves.

She even tries to pin the blame for this on Boris Johnson and Damien Green.  Boris, she claims, was wrong to have no confidence in Sir Ian Blair.  Given the number of times Sir Ian was in the news for the wrong reasons I would have thought the Mayor’s lack of confidence entirely rational.  And then to suggest that Damien Green somehow provoked the police into arresting him by receiving a Home Office leak beggars belief.

Above all I’m shocked by her comments because she is just plain wrong about politics; she seems to think that politics are somehow bad or sordid and should be avoided wherever possible.  Now this might be because she is a rare self-loathing politician, or, more likely, she wants to keep policing power centralised in the Home Office.

In fact, politics are about matching public resources to public priorities.  The police are no different.  They have to follow the priorities set down for them, whether by legislation or government policy.  The problem is that these priorities are set far too far away from the people who will have their own views on what they should be;  on one street it might be anti-social behaviour, on one estate it might be a spate of car crime.  People want and need a way of having a dialogue with the police to express these priorities and hear what the police are doing, and a way of passing judgement on what they see happening.

And some of the best people at communicating with their communities are their local politicians, it’s what they do – they listen to their residents, the act on their behalf, and then they are answerable at the ballot box.

The Home Secretary shouldn’t be worrying about politicisation of the police force, she’s already part of that.  What she should be worried about is that the politicisation she’s overseen is one of increasing centralist control, and she’s not doing anything to move power back towards the people.

The Garrett Business Park Business Improvement District (BID) vote was counted yesterday.  One of the powers a BID has is to charge an extra levy on business rates to be invested within the district.

The proposal came about after a lot of hard work from the business association and Angela Graham, one of the local councillors.  Having visited the business park I could see why they wanted the BID to help them invest in the crumbling roads they had to use, so wasn’t surprised when the vote was successful.

However, I was astounded by the margin of victory for the ‘yes’ vote – a 68% turnout with a 90% yes vote.  These are businesses, facing recession, voting for more taxation!

But, of course, what they have actually voted for is the right – for the first time – to see their business rates benefiting them.  Up until now they’ve been paying into the national pot which is unfairly distributed to Labour’s friends in the north.

It’s a fairly common complaint I hear from businesses that business rates keep going up – and I have to explain that although the government makes Wandsworth collect them we don’t get to set them.  It’s a ridiculous situation that really needs to be changed.  Here in Wandsworth we give residents low council tax and excellent services, we should be allowed to offer the same to businesses.

Mayor of London, Boris JohnsonIsn’t it odd to hear the Labour and Green Party GLA members belittling Boris Johnson’s council freeze because it will only save 11p a week on council tax? These are the same people who presumably believe that 2.5% off VAT will save the world.

What they fail to realise is that we finally have a Mayor who is serious about controlling the City Hall budget, and that’s good news that doesn’t just last until the end of next year.

In his 8 years as Mayor Ken Livingstone managed to double the precept City Hall took to run the GLA from £150 to over £300 – that’s about 11% a year. Assuming past record is a good indicator of future performance (and I reckon eight years is enough to get a handle on him) it means the difference between a Johnson and Livingstone mayoralty is that the average household will be £400 better off.

Crime mapping is something that started off in the US and is starting to be implemented in the UK, and while it is seen as a good thing by both parties I don’t think there are many places in the UK that have done it well.

The Metropolitan Police have their own mapping site – maps.met.police.uk.  But this is one that I don’t think really hits the spot.  If you look at site today you’ll see that most of London has ‘average’ crime.  If you zoom into Wandsworth you’ll see that it has average crime.  Look at the wards of Wandsworth, and yes, most of them have average crime.  You can even zoom into sub-wards (a small collection of roads that might, or might not, be similar) and discover that pretty much every sub-ward suffers average crime.

I don’t think ‘average’ helps anyone. It’s difficult to judge what it means, and given that most people think crime is much higher than it actually is you just end up thinking that average crime is actually quite high.

I think something like the map below helps a bit more (please see the health warnings underneath):

View Larger Map
The map is hosted by Google, and occasionally will not load, or will not load the flags. If it does not display correctly, try refreshing the page or following the link directly under the map.
On this map the yellow flags represent burglaries, the red flags represent street crime. You can see it in more detail on the Google website. This information is taken from the council’s crime briefing – which is distributed to Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators – for 4-11 December 2008. I think this type of mapping helps more than generic averages and areas. There are, however, a few health warnings:

  1. The briefing only contains details of burglaries and robberies. Other crimes are not included.
  2. The flags are not placed precisely (it would be irresponsible to advertise victims of burglary) but instead are spaced roughly equally on the roads they took place.
  3. This map is only for the Battersea parliamentary consitutuency – which is different to the police’s Battersea sector.
  4. While I try to ensure the data is accurate it is reliant on the information I receive, and I’m only human, so it may be mistakes have crept in. Please let me know if you think you’ve spotted one.

I’m guessing the answer is no.

What about police on the street?

Most people would answer yes to that.

Unfortunately the government feels that another tier of elected officials is the solution, and are suggesting that each area elects a crime and policing representative – around 400 of them nationwide.  In London this job would entail chairing a meeting called the ‘Crime And Disorder Reduction Partnership’, a group made up of all the relevant public bodies in the area; the police, council, probation, youth services, and so on.  Crucially, this representative wouldn’t have any specific power, they would just be the chairman of a committee.  They could not, for example, change the priorities of the police unless the police themselves agreed.

The Local Government Association reckons the bill for electing these 400 powerless politicians would be between £15 and £48 million, enough to pay for 300 or 1,000 extra police!

If you’d prefer more police sign the petition at the 10 Downing Street website.

 

What will make you feel safer?  400 more politicians or 700 more police?
What will make you feel safer? 400 more politicians or 700 more police?

The council’s website contains details of a success the Community Safety Division’s CCTV team had recently.

The team had been monitoring a vehicle used as a getaway car in a robbery.  They had already got footage of the robbery taking place, vital evidence in any future court case.  However, when they noticed a group of men taking an unusual interest in the vehicle they were able to notify the police who managed to nab four individuals for further questioning.

I freely admit I am a CCTV sceptic.  CCTV is often seen as solution to virtually any problem, when all it often does is move problems along – but this is a great example of how valuable CCTV, used intelligently, can be in the fight against crime.

You can read the full story on the council’s website here.

PCSO Steve, part of the local Safer Neighbourhood Team
PCSO Steve, part of the local Safer Neighbourhood Team

The Council and Police’s Safe and Secure Roadshow was at Asda, Battersea today, handing out crime prevention advice to shoppers and balloons to the children (who also had a chance to meet PCSO Steve).

It is, unfortunately, a good time for criminals as people often have fairly expensive, and brand new, gifts around – so it pays to make sure you aren’t giving the gift to the wrong people!

The council’s community safety team partner with local police Safer Neighbourhood Teams around the borough to put on the roadshows.  If you don’t see one there’s lots of useful advice to be found on the council’s Community Safety website.

Last night saw Wandsworth’s last full council meeting of the year.  My main part was speaking in a debate on the results of the business survey carried out earlier this year.

It showed that business confidence was declining (even though it was carried out before the news started to turn really bleak) but Wandsworth was generally feeling more confident than businesses elsewhere in London and the country.  There was also good news that the council’s business support services are generally highly regarded.

What astounded me, however, is that the Labour Party really do seem to have fallen for the spin that Gordon Brown is some sort of world leader stirring everyone through a financial crisis.  They applaud his VAT cut, but fail to notice that shops are having to have 10%, 20% and even 50% sales just to get them through Christmas!

On a day he said he’d saved the world (and while we all make slips of the tongue, they often reveal what we are really thinking) we also had the German finance minister calling Brown’s plans, “crass” and saying they would take a generation to pay off.  It seems Brown is a world leader with no followers.

In the midst of this it’s down to Wandsworth to try and make things as good as we can for businesses in the borough, while no-one should be under any illusion times will be easy for business, hopefully we will be able to avoid the worst of it.