Hackney police commander calls on community to "play its part" in crime prevention
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Hackney’s police commander has called on the community to “step up” and help his officers keep people safe.
Det Ch Supt Marcus Barnett spoke to the Gazette about moving into a “difficult and rather busy period” of policing with the easing of lockdown and the efforts officers are making to improve the way they deliver stop and search.
On top of this they are working hard to prevent serious crimes against women and those involving trafficking, firearms and drugs - which hurt Hackney communities and the borough’s youth.
He asked for the community to be the police’s “eyes and ears” saying these types of crimes “cannot be under the radar of everybody” and “people must know what is going on”.
Cmdr Barnett added: “Tell us where [crime] is happening and what you know and we will deal with it.
"This cannot be just a police issue and I don’t think we call enough on the community to help us, if I am honest. We need to do more of that and there is a big part for everybody to play in this.”
He spoke of young people like a 12-year-old boy which police had stopped, working with somebody “far older” who was selling drugs.
The commander said the young boy was caught with a “great big knife down his trousers", describing how “time and time again” police were finding “enormous” zombie knives and swords.
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“People must know 12, 13 and 14-year-old kids are out on the streets walking around with knives taken out of their houses and carrying drugs for other people.
"They are vulnerable, they are victims and they are being exploited – and it’s not right," he said.
Possession of weapon offences in Hackney have decreased by about four per cent over the last year but cases involving teenagers like Joshua White, who was fatally stabbed in Frampton Park Road by three men looking to gain gang notoriety, are stark reminders of the consequences of youth violence in the borough.
"When we talk about having a gang culture there's no getting away from it.
"Some people don’t like the word gangs, but I'm afraid that’s what it is," Cmdr Barnett said.
Though, he acknowledged there was work to do to improve how Stop and Search and Section 60s are conducted he said they are tactical tools police will continue to use on the streets of Hackney.
But while calling on Hackney people to report crime more often, Det Ch Supt Barnett added: “I think by and large the community support and the level of compliance with the legislation has been pretty remarkable during a very challenging time for us all."
While crime rates have dipped by 13pc over the last 12 months, according to the Met Crime Dashboard, Cmdr Barnett says police are entering a busier time with outdoor pubs and shops now open and the weather warming up.
He says call volumes have started to increase and Met data shows an 11pc increase in crime from February to March.
He said the force had also seen around a 10-15pc increase in domestic abuse over the last few months.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) women in 2019 women experienced domestic abuse at double the rate to men nationally and, according to the latest CSEW ending September 2020, stalking and harassment increased by 15 per cent in Hackney, from 1669 incidents in 2019 to 1914 in 2020.
Sexual offences decreased by three per cent in the borough over the same period.
Cmdr Barnett said: “Since the tragic death of Sarah Everard - and it was tragic.
"It churned my stomach and devastated many of us in the organisation because of the circumstances by which she died.
"It's brought many things to the fore in terms of violence against women and girls generally.”
Even before Sarah Everard, who went missing from a south London street on March 3 and whose body was found in a Kent woodland nine days later, reignited national debates around women’s safety, Cmdr Barnett says Hackney police have been investing resources to prevent crimes against women.