We must do everything in our powers to keep Chiswick safe. The surge in shoplifting, burglaries and theft from motor vehicles has become normalised. Victims feel powerless and they feel unable to prevent the inevitable. Crime seems to be everywhere and yet, there seems to be very little in the way of protection and reassurance. It is up to all of us as community leaders to work towards a solution.
A recent report on the BBC revealed that 82% of burglaries in London to the year ending June 2023 went unsolved. That translates to nearly 50,000 cases. Shoplifting went up by 21% in the same period. The total number of thefts from and of vehicles was recorded at 31,017; a jumped of 28% from the previous year. Staggeringly, 87.2% of motor vehicle theft were unsolved.
We seem to be allowing London to become a city of crime. Earlier this year, I spoke with a security guard from the Lidl Store on Uxbridge Road after witnessing a homeless woman with her partner walk out with two large bags, full of meat. The guard told me that it happened regularly, and that the police never show up; even though the two thieves are well known. He explained that he would only confront them if they took alcohol!
In July, I found myself having a similar conversation with the security guard at Mark and Spencer’s on Chiswick High Road. He disclosed to me that he knew all the regular shoplifters who frequented the store. What was more unsettling to him was that the items being stolen in the store were often being resold on to another trader for cash to feed a drug habit.
Just this week on Tuesday, I walked onto a crime scene as it was taking place. It happened on Oxford Road North, just off Chiswick High Road. The owner of the car was returning from a nature break at the Clayton Hotel, when I heard a loud bang as the rear passenger side window of her car was smashed in, setting off the alarm. At first, through the commotion, I thought there had been car accident. It took another 15-20 seconds to realise what had just happened. It dawned on me that the young person who had sped past me on an electric scooter moments earlier, was the culprit. I caught sight of him again in the distance as he turned right on Wellesley Road and disappeared. The victim was a middle-aged businesswoman; visibly shaken by the ordeal. After spending the next hour and half checking on her and speaking with the police, she confided in me that she had thought Chiswick was an affluent area devoid of crime. I told her that it never used to be this bad. It’s only recently that we have been perceived by criminals as a soft touch, but that we as community leaders were determined to change that narrative with or without the help of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Many people forget that the responsibility for policing in London lies squarely Mayor of London. Policing London should be his number one priority. The Metropolitan Police had a Central Government funded uplift in recruitment to help tackle crime but the Mayor did not hit that target. In a recent interview for the Evening Standard, one of Mayor Khan’s Deputy for Policing attempted to explain why the Met Police were set to miss their recruitment target by nearly 2,000 officers. In a remarkable piece of manoeuvring, she told the Standard that the Mayor had not hit his targets because City Hall was focused on quality and not quantity! With this sort of thinking at City Hall, it is no wonder Councils like Hammersmith and Fulham are setting up their own teams. London Borough of Hounslow needs to urgently follow suit.
The ‘quality’ prerequisite seems like another excuse to add to his shield of the blame game that has won him two terms in office amidst the worst performance indicators of any London Mayor. On the Met Police Recruitment website, it states: “We are looking for people who share our values of respect, integrity, empathy, courage and accountability. And who share our high standards of behaviour.” London, with its population of over 8 million plus people, is not devoid of people with these values, skills and attributes.
It is hard not to come to the conclusion that crime is not the Mayor’s number one priority. He is more likely to be found passionately defending the ULEZ charge on hard working motorists win cash grab, than looking for ways to keep Londoners safe. If he had focused a little less ULEZ (to market his 'Breath' book launch) and little more on recruiting Police officers, fighting crime and supporting victims of crime; our residents would be safer.
My Priority if elected as the the London Assembly Member for South West London on the 2nd May 2024, will be simple. Tackle crime. But I won’t wait until 2nd May 2024: Chiswick and other towns need action now.
We can start with an easy first step. An initiative known as the Pop-Up Police Station. This was trialled in Waltham Forest last year and it produced results. We can have a better version of this on our in high crime areas across the South West. A pop-up police hub has the added advantage of being movable to the area of high crime. It would allow for the Police and the Council's Safer Neighbourhood teams to operate directly from it, delivering maximum visibility to deterrent criminals.
We must also look to ourselves as a society. We must not allow our young people to lose their virtues. We must continue to educate our young people to know right from wrong. We must teach them about taking responsibility and respecting other people. We must encourage a sense of pride and belonging to the community. Our young people will look to us to settle the example.
Two weeks ago, I met a young man called Jason. He is a 16-year-old looking for work around the Feltham and Hampton area. What was remarkable about this young man was that he had stashed a bunch of CVs in his pocket, and was going shop to shop looking for work.
On Tuesday, before the incident I mentioned earlier, I met Denys, 20-year-old Ukrainian man who had been in touch looking to volunteer at the Chiswick Flower Market and Chiswick Clean Up. He also had a bunch of CVs in his bag looking for employment.
The common theme is that these two young people were taking responsibility and finding meaning and belonging through employment and volunteering. Yes, these are small examples, but it is the small things that make a big difference in a good society.