Dedicated Met squad for borough’s parks
Published: Thursday 27th October 11
Public safety and security in Wandsworth’s parks and open spaces could soon be strengthened with the introduction of a dedicated patrol team of Metropolitan Police officers.
An agreement with the Met could see a squad of 12 officers taking over responsibility for patrolling and ensuring public safety in the borough's parks and commons. Councillors will be asked to approve these changes on November 9.
The introduction of this new police team would represent the first time in 26 years that Wandsworth has benefited from a team of Met police officers dedicated solely to patrolling the borough's green spaces and armed with the full range of police powers, equipment and training.
The new squad would include two sergeants and ten constables and be comprised of additional police recruits to the borough. The number of existing Met officers covering other policing duties in the borough would not be reduced.
And to complement this newly formed safer parks team the proposals call for a small squad of five staff from the council's existing parks police service to be retained to provide detailed local knowledge of open spaces and to be available to police events, chiefly those in Battersea Park.
They would have powers to enforce Wandsworth's parks and commons byelaws, including some powers of arrest, but would be distinguishable from the Met's safer parks team.
The plans would see a total of 17 officers being available to patrol the borough's parks and commons. This is an increase on the 16 men and women in the council's existing team of parks patrollers.
The new Met team would only be used in their core role of patrolling local parks. They would be ring-fenced for this purpose and not be available for other police duties in the borough.
This dozen strong team would all be fully fledged police officers with the full powers of a warranted police constable and able to enforce all laws that apply in England. They would not be civilian community support officers (PCSOs).
They would use Met police radios and other communications systems and be able to instantly summon police reinforcements from outside the parks in cases of emergency. They would also have instant access to the police national computer (PNC) to help them conduct their enquiries.
As well as providing enhanced safety and security, the changes would save council tax payers in Wandsworth around £400,000 a year, through reductions in existing staff costs plus the costs of providing office accommodation, management and equipment.
These savings can be achieved as a result of a unique partnership funding offer from the Mayor of London, who earlier this year invited boroughs to purchase extra police resources.
The Mayor's offer is on a "buy one get one free" basis. For every officer the boroughs pay for the Mayor will provide a second - giving councils two police officers for the price of one. In this way Wandsworth's intention is to "purchase" six officers in order to get 12.
The council's environment and community safety spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: "These proposals represent great news for visitors to our parks and commons. For the first time in 26 years they will be patrolled on a daily basis by a dedicated squad of police officers with the full range of police powers, training, equipment and resources.
"These officers would remain solely on duty in parks. They could not be called away to fulfil other policing duties unless there were overwhelming and compelling reasons such as a national emergency.
"And in order to keep a solid level of local knowledge and to further enhance safety and security levels we are proposing to retain a core reserve of our existing parks police officers.
"Overall the total number of patrollers employed to keep the public safe would increase slightly - and what's more they would be better equipped to deal with any situation that may arise.
"If approved this will also be good news for council tax payers in Wandsworth, who will benefit from a saving of £400,000 a year whilst at the same time continuing to receive a top quality service.
"Our parks and commons have long enjoyed a reputation for being amongst the safest in London. These proposals will reinforce and strengthen that reputation and ensure even greater levels of safety and security for the public."
The proposals will be discussed by councillors on the environment, culture and community safety overview and scrutiny committee on November 9.