A local petition to keep Hornchurch Police Station in the Met’s ownership has been taken to New Scotland Yard by Hornchurch & Upminster MP, Julia Lopez. Mrs Lopez presented the petition of over 1100 residents’ signatures at a meeting she called on 20 April with Met Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley QPM, to raise concerns about policing in Outer London.
The signatures had been collected by the Hornchurch & Upminster Conservative Association as part of a long-running campaign with Mrs Lopez to stop Mayor Sadiq Khan’s 2017 plan to sell Hornchurch Police Station. Campaigners secured a reprieve for the critical local police base when a deal was struck to sell the site to Havering Council, with an option to lease part back to the Met to maintain police presence in the area.
Progress on implementing this deal stalled and the station has since become the base for Havering’s highly effective Joint Task Force. Meanwhile over 350 extra police officers have been added to the area’s Borough Command Unit under the government’s police recruitment drive, which today hit its target of 20 000 additional officers in England and Wales - a key 2019 manifesto pledge. Overall police officer numbers for England and Wales now stand at 149 582 - a record ever number and 3542 more than the previous peak in March 2010.
As a result, Mrs Lopez and local Conservatives have argued that the 2017 decision on Hornchurch Police Station needs to be revisited to account for additional police resource and the changing crime picture in Outer London. They have asked the new Met Commissioner to review the decision over the base's future, which Sir Mark confirmed he would do in a letter of 30 March to Mrs Lopez.
Mrs Lopez once again made the case for Hornchurch Police Station staying in the Met’s estate at the New Scotland Yard meeting, telling the Commissioner that it would help with response times to crime in her constituency, provide a permanent base for new officers and enable a more effective approach to car theft, burglary and street muggings by the Havering Joint Task Force - all things which serve Sir Mark’s objective to bolster neighbourhood policing.
Sir Mark expects his Estates Review to conclude in the coming months, during which time Mrs Lopez signalled her intention to keep the pressure up by collecting more signatures of supportive residents with Conservative ward campaign teams.
Mrs Lopez also highlighted concerns to the Met Commissioner about crime statistics in Outer London, with Havering seeing a 28.3 percent increase in possession of a weapon offences over the past twelve months compared to a fall of 4.7 per cent across London; an increase of 7.8 per cent in drug offences in the borough compared to a fall of 10.1 per cent across London; and an increase of 44.9 percent in vehicle offences compared to a 5.3 percent capital-wide rise. Expressing her worry that boroughs like Havering are paying for policing improvements in inner London, Mrs Lopez requested additional support for hard working police officers across the East Area Borough Command Unit.
Following the meeting at New Scotland Yard, Mrs Lopez caught up with Havering Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Stuart Bell, and met Havering’s new Neighbourhood Superintendent, Simon Hutchinson. Superintendent Hutchinson joined the borough in March to beef up the police response to the kinds of crimes that constituents are writing to Mrs Lopez about - particularly possession of knives and theft of and from vehicles. Chief Superintendent Bell is working with Havering Council on a crackdown on knife crime, and local officers are focused on a prevention campaign on vehicle theft. Chief Superintendent Bell highlighted the proactive work of one of Upminster’s dedicated PCSOs, who has begun a door-knocking and flyering campaign in the ward when she finds an unsecured vehicle.
Commenting after her meeting at New Scotland Yard, Mrs Lopez said: “I was glad to have the chance to put our case on Hornchurch Police Station directly to the Met Commissioner and highlight the worries my constituents have on knife crime and vehicle theft in particular.
Today, the government hit our manifesto pledge to recruit 20 000 extra police officers and I am glad to have been able to get over 350 of them into our Borough Command Unit. We are also giving police more powers to combat crime. But for local officers to be at their most effective, they need units like the Havering Joint Task Force to have a base from which to operate and not have to journey across the borough from Romford to respond to crimes in Hornchurch & Upminster or to start and end their shifts.
I very much hope that the Commissioner takes my arguments on board as he concludes his estates review and notes the huge amount of community support for our petition.”
Conservative Association Chairman, Dominic Swan said: "Having a local police station means a faster, more efficient response time to crimes committed in the area. Taking away Hornchurch police station would remove a key deterrent to local criminals. I implore both the Police Commissioner and the Mayor to heed the community’s voice on this matter.”