The Herne Hill and Loughborough Junction Safer Neighbourhood Panel held its quarterly meeting on 6 December in the boardroom of King’s College Hospital. I attended on behalf of Fawnbrake and neighbouring streets; there were representatives from Coldharbour Lane, Rollscourt Avenue/Woodquest Avenue and Sunset Road. Councillor Dickson attended, as one of the councillors for the ward, as did Police Sergeant Obiola (our Ward Sergeant), Police Constables Keita and Paterson, and PCSO Mo, who has been a familiar face in the streets for several years often to be seen on his bicycle. The panel is chaired by John Frankland.
The police talked us through their crime reports for the three months August – September 2022. These are not deeply detailed, but show an increase (in October) of robbery (i.e. theft from persons or premises with the implicit or explicit threat of violence) often of mobile phones; theft, e.g. of bicycles and shoplifting; and a small increase in burglary.
Compared with the same period the previous year, the aggregate number of recorded incidents was down by two, but theft and robbery offences had risen. In current economic circumstances, these numbers can be expected to rise further. Drug offences were down but I suspect that this is because the police seem not to interfere with the very visible drug addicts such as we might see, for instance, around Herne Hill station and in Brixton, in instances where it isn’t obvious and provable that an offence is taken place. Where serious drug users (who are often troubled by mental illnesses as well) become a public nuisance, often the only remedy for the police is to arrest them and section them to a mental hospital, which will then release them after a day or so.
That said, the police did obtain a warrant for the search of a known drug distribution operation on Mayall Road, though on this occasion no evidence was collected. The house is reportedly very active again and it is possible that another raid could take place, as the neighbours and other residents are of course troubled and distressed by the presence of this activity on their doorstep. Bicycle theft does continue, and the police are very keen to advise bike owners to register their bikes with bikeregister.com and immobilise.com. In addition, the police managed to arrest and charge a male exposing in Ruskin Park; he was released on a bail condition not to be in the park.
A number of other issues were raised and discussed, not all of them matters for the police (so not mentioned here). Some people were worried about the rise of E-scooters being driven (usually illegally) at speed on roads and sometimes even on pavements – amounting in practice to antisocial behaviour. The police representatives sympathised but explained that a foot patrol or even a patrol in a police car could normally not physically stop and warn/arrest the scooter drivers: an operation involving several units would be needed and this seemed not to be very high priority – though some of us warned that if this phenomenon continued unabated, there would eventually be severe injuries or maybe even deaths of pedestrians or other road users. It is very much a London-wide or maybe even a national problem, exacerbated by the government’s ambiguous rules.
Another issue was organised night-time drug dealing on the corner of the Rollscourt Avenue and Kestrel Avenue, near the doctor’s surgery. This normally attracted some drug users on foot to be supplied from a car. There seemed to be no threat to other members of the public but it was disturbing to residents. The police said they would keep an eye on this.
I mentioned the phenomenon, familiar on our street, of parked cars being opened and disturbed overnight. The police thought that this was often conducted by drug users looking for small amounts of cash or something to sell. They offered no remedy except, obviously, to keep the cars locked and empty of stealable property. Another issue was the regular sighting of discarded nitrous oxide gas cylinders, presumably left by abusers who seem to be graduating to much larger cylinders.
Traffic speeding generally was a concern, as in the past. The small team responsible for the Community Road Watch seemed to have been dispersed but needs to be reinstated. Mr Frankland will pursue this.
The next meeting will take place in March 2023.