Category Archives: Crime

The Explosion of Porch Piracy

Yes, the term and the phenomenon were originally American but are now current over here too, and escalating fast. Some reports suggest that doorstep  parcel theft has jumped 500% in the past four years. In the year to August 2023, there were apparently 16,421 reports of parcel theft in the UK, up from 2,700 for the same period four years ago. And that’s only the ones that are reported. The UK is well ahead of other European countries for online shopping, which of course increases the opportunity for opportunistic looting.

In America, doorstep delivery delinquency has also been growing; it probably started there anyway. One survey estimates that 210 million packages were stolen across America in 2021. Eight states in the USA have recently passed laws increasing the penalties for package theft from a misdemeanour to a felony.

These figures are lifted from an article in this weekend’s Financial Times. It goes on to claim that UK courier companies and retailers are making a great effort to ensure packages end up in the right hands. Personally we are not yet sure this is as true as we might wish. We’ve all been aware that some couriers just drop on the doorstep and run without trying to ensure that there is anyone at home to receive the parcel. Some delivery firms, including Royal Mail, do offer a “safe place” delivery option but this isn’t always observed.

The article also notes that, just as shoplifting as a whole has substantially risen, the cost of living crisis has also increased the market for stolen goods from people’s doorsteps – as we’ve observed locally. Though one could add that the police here are convinced that much of the shoplifting and theft has to do with the increasing level of drug trafficking rather than food poverty.

Not surprisingly Harry Wallop, the writer of this article and a freelance writer on consumer affairs, does not come up with any stunning solution. But he notes that there is an increasing trend – a hybrid solution as he calls it – to order goods online and then go for the “click and collect” pickup option. Well, yes, I think many of us have learned this the hard way. This is in some ways inconvenient but usually guarantees safer delivery.

Here in Herne Hill, many (but not all) Amazon deliveries can be diverted either to the post office on Norwood Road or to a rather un-prepossessing but efficient convenience store, Omsakthi Food & Wine, at 16 Milkwood Road. The routine differs from place to place. In the post office when you have shown your barcode, it’s the job of the poor overworked employee behind her/his glass screen to rummage around in the hundreds of parcels to find yours. In the convenience store, on the other hand, once you’re signed in with your barcode, it’s your job to plunge into the large boxes in the shop to find your parcel which you then present to the shopkeeper who scans it and then allows you to take it away: the boxes themselves are unsecured so an ingenious thief could theoretically snatch one up and  smuggle it out of the shop.

Many of us will be tempted to use these options more frequently. Of the two, the convenience store has some advantages since the post office – particularly at this time of the year – often requires a lengthy queue before getting to the counter. Other carriers, e.g. UPS, can divert to other pickup spots, for example Marie Russell, the newsagents on Half Moon Lane.

Dulwich parents start daily street patrols to stop kids getting mugged

‘It’s robbing our children of their freedom and their youth,” said one local mother.

This week (Monday, November 6) marked the start of the daily action that is designed to increase adult presence on the roads after school.

Father-of-two, Dr Matthew Allen, from Dulwich, said he had become increasingly aware of muggings taking place when children are on their way home.

“A boy tried to mug my son on the way home from school one day,” he told us, “luckily he was able to get away by running into the road. But it definitely had an effect on him.”

Fellow parent, Vanessa Perrin, shared a similar experience: “I moved here two years ago – in that time I have been present for a mugging and then my son was mugged.

Determined to do something about it, they said they set up WhatsApp groups in the community, which they claim were going off ‘almost daily’ with reports of a mugging or attempted mugging.

“We wanted to act,” Vanessa explained, “But we didn’t have the tools or the police support.”

That’s when they reached out to Emma Rigby, who has been running a similar scheme in Enfield for the last four years and claims robberies have reduced by nearly half.

Emma said: “After one particularly bad week when nineteen boys were mugged in the same month, we decided to start these patrols to increase the eyes and ears on the streets.

“Within a year of launching the patrols robberies fell by 48 per cent.

“These parents in Dulwich reached out to me and I decided to do a pilot scheme here until Christmas to see if it makes a difference in the area.”

The idea is that parents and community members patrol the areas that are known as ‘mugging hotspots’ from the hours of 3:30pm and 5pm when most children are out. “We just speak to people and if we see anyone get approached we’re on alert and we make ourselves known to them.

“Most of the time it works just to go over and say hello and be visible. If anything ever gets out of hand we just contact the police.”

On their first patrol, Emma demonstrated this – introducing herself and a parent as the new community patrol to everyone who passed by. She stopped one schoolboy and asked if he’d ever been mugged, to which he casually replied: “No, but all of my friends have.”

The group is partnered with the Met Police and will choose which areas to monitor based on where they deem as ‘hotspots’ for crime. Emma hopes to take the scheme London-wide in the near future.

Dr Allen added, “I hope by doing these patrols we’re going to raise awareness and hopefully reduce the number of muggings that happen on the street, like they have in Enfield.”

As well as keeping the young people safe, he said it’s good for fostering community spirit as well, commenting: “You get to meet people and it’s good for your well-being.”

Vanessa said: “We’re here to be positive rather than vigilantes.”

For the first patrol, six willing parents were present but Emma is hopeful and will continue to spread the word. “Forty-five people have already signed up – you don’t have to be a parent to volunteer.”

They said that whilst doing a patrol every day after school is not realistic for working parents, they hope that if enough people sign up they will only have to go out once a month.

As it’s community-led, residents in other areas can get in touch to find out how to bring this to where they live. They are also hoping that schools and other local organisations get involved too.

Anyone wanting to find out more about the scheme and how to volunteer, go to this site

Article by Isabel Ramirez on Southwark News, filed by Isabel Ramirez ,7th November 2023

Short video available on You Tube via this page of Southwark News.  Filed actually on Half Moon Lane by the Judith Kerr School

Community Road Watch – request for volunteers to monitor speeding traffic

Reacting to residents’ concerns voiced in the Herne Hill Ward Safer Neighbourhood Team panel meetings, the police have proposed holding some more Community Road Watch exercises this summer. They will focus principally on Milkwood Road and Herne Hill Road, both of which are particularly notorious for badly driven vehicles, often exceeding the 20 mph speed limit and putting pedestrians, cyclists and other road users at risk. Both roads of course have schools on or very close.

The Community Road Watch  exercise involves a Police Officer or Community Officer standing alongside local neighbours who operate a handheld speed camera. Photographic evidence of dangerous driving does not automatically result in a prosecution, but does provide evidence for the police to send a serious warning letter to the driver concerned. The programme requires a member of the public to hold the camera alongside the Metropolitan Police representative. I think we all recognise (the police certainly do) that an immediate speeding fine would be a stronger deterrent, but the law does not apparently permit this at present.

The Safer Neighbourhood Team for this Council ward (I am one of several local members) would like to find some local volunteers to allow this project to take place this summer. For Herne Hill Road it might make sense to look for support among parents whose children attend Saint Saviour’s School. For Milkwood Road, I am looking for volunteers who live perhaps in Fawnbrake Avenue or maybe on Milkwood Road itself, although I have no contact details for that particular community.


The police have proposed the following dates. Note that they are not expecting people to volunteer for all of these dates! This is just a start to find people who might be available for one or two dates – which might need to be adjusted depending on police rosters nearer the time.

Dates proposed by the police:

Friday 14th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Monday 17th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Tuesday 18th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Wednesday 19th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Monday 24th July – between the hours of 08:00 – 15:00

Tuesday 25th July  – between the hours of 08:00 – 15:00

Wednesday 26th July  – between the hours of 08:00 – 15:00

Thursday 27th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Friday 28th July – between the hours of 14:00 – 18:30

Can you help?

Thank you for anything you can do to circulate this request or mention the project to people that you think might be interested.

It would be great if anyone seeing this message who may be interested and available could please to get in touch direct with me at or mobile number 07774 424 410. I appreciate that we are not giving people much notice.

Herne Hill Ward Safer Neighbourhood Panel Meeting, 23 March 2023

This meeting was attended by representatives of the local police (only two, the others were off work for unstated reasons); two of the Herne Hill Ward councillors; a couple of representatives of local Herne Hill businesses and Traders Association; and people representing some (but not all) of the different areas/roads of Herne Hill.

Drugs, theft and ASB

The issue that took up most time was drug abuse and antisocial behaviour in and around Station Square, and the associated surge in shoplifting and aggressive begging. It was reported that some businesses had suffered costly opportunistic thefts. The two supermarkets were regularly raided by thieves who carried off bags of goods with total impunity. But even where a security guard was present, it was clear that they had orders not to endanger themselves by trying to physically prevent the shoplifters walking out with the goods.

Those who could observe this happening regularly, and who had learned to recognise the “usual suspects”, were convinced that the shoplifting was mainly designed, not to alleviate hunger or want, but to finance a drug habit. The police and the councillors were well aware of at least two local premises where addicts/thieves and petty dealers congregated to be supplied with and consume drugs. Raids had taken place, but the latest raid did not result in any prosecutions as no evidence could be found. This will be kept under observation and review: further raids might take place, depending on intelligence received.

The police said they were of course willing to attend the scene of any crime if someone called 999, but usually by the time they arrived the perpetrators had disappeared and proper evidence of a crime was often not available.


Persistent begging was on the increase again, with most beggars claiming homelessness as the reason for asking for money. Again, police , traders and the councillors believed that most of the money obtained would be used for drugs. There was therefore talk of encouraging generous passers-by who wanted to help the homeless to donate to an independent homelessness charity rather than direct to the beggars; and there was discussion of having posters to this effect and even some sort of donation site. This will be followed up.

Meanwhile, some people said, the atmosphere around the centre of Herne Hill was more intimidating now, especially at night, than  in recent years. There have also been more muggings, often of young people, and committed by heavily disguised people of the same age.

Police presence on the streets

The small team charged with policing the Herne Hill Ward was not numerous enough (taking into account different shifts, holidays, illnesses and the need to be instantly mobile and on call for unforeseen events) to simply patrol the streets in the traditional way. Being in cars made them much more efficient.

This of course reflects the overall depletion of local police teams as a result of austerity budget cuts exacerbated by imperfect police command structures. See the separate note here about the Metropolitan Police and the Baroness Casey Review. This broader issue was not raised at the meeting, but most of us recognized that our conscientious and hard-working local police teams are dangerously over-stretched.

Speeding traffic, especially on Milkwood Road

I emphasised the concern of many residents about the ever present danger of traffic speeding along Milkwood Road and even veering to the wrong side of the central reservations. The fact that this road provided the main access for many people to neighbouring schools was an additional cause of anxiety.

Our councillors were well aware of this problem. There is no instant solution at present. Speed cameras can only be installed and monitored by the police, not by the local authority: and even then, the police will only do this when there have already been accidents and perhaps even fatalities. But there are other measures that can be developed. And Councillor Deepak Sardiwal has just followed up with a very helpful email which I have quoted in full below:

Dear Pat
Thank you very much for raising at the Herne Hill and Loughborough Junction Ward Safer Neighbourhood Panel meeting on Thursday the issue of speeding on Milkwood Rd on behalf of Fawnbrake Avenue residents.
Speeding is a criminal offence and all roads controlled by Lambeth council now have a 20mph speed limit, while TfL is rolling out 20mph on some of its roads in the borough. I am aware though of the need to reduce traffic speeds in specific parts of the ward including Milkwood Rd and tackling this issue is a major concern for residents.
As Fawnbrake residents probably know, speeding cannot be directly enforced by Local Authorities. The Council’s ‘enforcement’ takes the form of design measures e.g. traffic calming. In terms of Milkwood Rd, the council has installed a zebra crossing and speed humps to slow racing traffic. The humps are rather diminutive in nature due to the ambulance service on Milkwood Rd and regular speed humps which I would ideally like to see would slow the deployment of emergency vehicles.

Wandsworth trial

At the Panel meeting, the trial started last year by the London Borough of Wandsworth to enforce the speed limit on selected streets in Wandsworth came up. This is a novel interpretation of the legislation by Wandsworth: the relevant highways legislation explicitly precludes the use of permanent traffic orders for this purpose, but is silent on the use of experimental orders (ETO) and Wandsworth council have therefore decided to test this approach. An ETO can only run for a maximum of 18 months and in this case there is no legal mechanism to convert to a permanent traffic order so that the scheme can remain in place. I do therefore think that such initiatives are to be best viewed as a proof of concept / lobbying tool as part of wider discussions with Government on the devolution of powers.

However, as Cllr Dickson noted in the meeting, the Department for Transport has stopped the scheme despite Wandworth Council reporting that the proportion of speeding vehicles on the trial roads had reduced since the scheme was introduced. Further information on this here.

Lambeth council is preparing a new Road Danger Reduction Strategy. I am told this will include a review of the possible actions required to help achieve ‘Vision Zero’- the Mayor of London’s ambition to reduce road danger to the extent that no-one is killed or seriously injured on our roads. As part of this process, the council is reviewing locations where collision clusters have been recorded and where it has received feedback from the community in relation to road danger. I am seeking information about the proposed public consultation process for the Strategy and will ensure the details are shared as I receive them.

In the meantime, the Police have powers to enforce against drivers exceeding the speed limit, but finite resources to do so. I would like to see more frequent Community Road Watch operations in the hot spots in the ward of Milkwood Rd, Herne Hill Rd and Denmark Hill with resident participation including children (although the operations typically take place during school hours). The last operation was in March 2022. I also want to see the council continue to make robust representations to the Government for local authority enforcement of speeding offences. Finally, I do think speaking with local residents that further traffic calming solutions could be explored for Milkwood Rd, which I submitted to the council in December.

I hope this information is of some assistance. You would be welcome to share it with Fawnbrake Avenue residents you have been in touch with if that might be helpful – as I say I understand their concerns. Thank you again for raising this important issue.
Best wishes

Dog nuisances

The forthcoming Public Spaces Protection Order was mentioned. See earlier post on this.

The next meeting of the panel is likely to be in June.

A stabbing in Josephine Avenue – and other crime news

It’s just outside our area, but perhaps worth recording, before looking at the wider picture.

A recent report from the Metropolitan police states that they were called to Josephine Avenue, SW2, at 18.19hrs last Saturday, 20 August to reports of a group of males fighting:

“Officers attended along with paramedics from London Ambulance Service. A man in his 30s was found with stab wounds. He was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital.
A vehicle made off from the scene which failed to stop for the Police. The vehicle was stopped shortly afterwards by Firearms Officers in Coldharbour Lane, SW9. Four occupants were detained and Taser was used to detain one of them.
Two of the occupants of the vehicle were found to have minor stab wounds and were taken to hospital for treatment. All injured parties’ injuries have been confirmed as Non-Life threatening or changing.
A total of six arrests have been made. The investigation is ongoing and being led by the local CID.
Anyone with information that may assist the investigation is asked to call 101 and quote CAD reference 6134 of 20th August 2022. Alternatively they can call Crime stoppers or contact (which is linked to Crimestoppers).”

So this time, fortunately, no-one was killed. But in 2021, London recorded the highest number of teenage homicides caused by knife and gun crimes in modern times. That year, the UK’s capital saw the murders of some 30 male teenagers aged between 14 and 19. This surpassed the record of 29 in 2008.

What of Herne Hill?

Separately, and earlier this summer, we saw some crime figures for Herne Hill circulated by the police Safer Neighbourhood Team for our area (I now attend the panel meetings representing Fawnbrake Avenue). This data records the ‘Total Notifiable Offences’ for the last 11 months to April 2022.

The statistics showed a monthly average of 10 burglaries, four robberies, 32 thefts and 40 crimes against the person.

Still in Herne Hill, recorded possessions of weapons and drug offences were pretty low; in other wards the figures may well have been higher. I am not in a position to explain the difference between some of these categories: definitions of various crimes seem to vary. And it’s worth remembering that even these fairly crude figures can only represent the instances that the police were informed about.

The bigger picture – burglaries

Alongside all that, neighbours may have spotted reports in the national press earlier this summer about the astonishingly low clear-up rate for burglaries across the UK.

In neighbourhoods covering nearly half the country over the past three years, police have failed to solve a single burglary. Of more than 32,000 neighbourhoods analysed, 16,000 of them (46%) had all their burglary cases in the past three years closed with no suspect caught and charged by police.

Almost 2,000 of the neighbourhoods – each containing approximately 3,000 residents – recorded at least 25 burglaries, but none were solved. The worst neighbourhood, in Sheffield, went three years without any of its 104 burglaries being solved.

So for Lambeth?

The figures can be broken down by borough, and show that for Lambeth, 93.3% of burglaries were unsolved (data is for May 2019 to April 2022). The figure for robberies was 92.9% unsolved, and for bicycle thefts 98.3% unsolved. It doesn’t really help that, in the same statistics, Hackney comes out even worse.

So it seems clear that in most areas, burglary has not been regarded as a policing priority. Here in London, knife crime is probably – and understandably – a higher priority.

Yes, we might have expected the police to be able to respond to both types of incident. But on burglaries, some police forces have apparently introduced schemes to “screen” burglaries to decide if they are likely to be solved. If not, they are not fully investigated. These have ranged from the bizarre, where Leicestershire did not fully investigate break-ins at odd numbered houses to save money, to the more sophisticated in Norfolk, where Artificial Intelligence was used to assess the “solvability” of cases based on 29 factors, such as forensics, CCTV and location.

This seems to mean that if there is no CCTV or forensic evidence readily available, the case will often be closed within hours – leaving victims with no prospect of justice and little chance of recovering treasured personal items.


None of this is very reassuring. It’s probably stating the obvious to conclude that the safest lesson to draw from these figures is that we all need to take our own sensible, deliberate and consistent precautions to secure our persons, our families, our residences and our possessions. We can also look out for our neighbourhood and our street, as we on Fawnbrake already do – because, for whatever reason, the police may not be able to spring to help in an emergency when we send out the call.