I visited Sgt Darren Hepple from the Safer Transport Command in Romford recently to see his work supporting the Hope for Havering Project. This faith-based programme works to support the homeless people in the borough; it looked to me like the Big Society in action, and reminded me how many of us join the policing service out of a strong sense of vocation.
Some may say “sounds very interesting, but it looks like social work to me”, but Darren’s description of what the Met are doing here and why was a clear business case given the chaotic lives some of these people lead. Every homeless person the project successfully supported meant either fewer victims because they were less vulnerable, or less crime as frankly they did not have to steal to be able to eat. In our journey to improve performance, which I admit can feel like a hunt for numbers, this small project showed good long-term problem solving.
As we work to improve Neighbourhood Policing within the new One Met Model, we need to think carefully not just about new names and labels but about the policing style we want for London. Of course, in our ‘War on Crime’, that means stronger enforcement, use of good tactics and swift effective investigation, but problem solving like this must have its place to reduce the risk of crime or ASB in the first place.
On average we deal with over 300 reports a week of ‘missing from homes’ involving children under 17. Many we see are repeat ‘users’ and here’s the clue. Good problem solving can help us tackle underlying issues. We can raise our game when tackling underlying vulnerability too. For example, are we robust enough in the use of Protection Orders for frequent missing youths? Are we making the links when young people return home? Are we sure ‘safe and well’ is really what it seems?
A number of forces have come under the spotlight recently for how they have supposedly handled the investigation of child sexual exploitation. If we hold a mirror to the Met, are we doing all we can to make sure the same is not happening on our watch in London? Projects such as Hope for Havering may help us yield opportunities not just to protect the individuals from harm but to get underneath some of the wider impact and costs of the repeated use of our time dealing with issues that might just be fixed if we were all as determined and innovative as Sgt Hepple.
Assistant Commissioner Byrne (3rd Highest Ranking Policeman)