Page last updated at 20:21 GMT, Tuesday, 10 January 2006

LA police chief on London patrol

By Alex Kleiderman
BBC News

Ken Livingstone, Bill Bratton
Mr Bratton saw the work the new unit was doing in the area
The US police chief who pioneered a "zero tolerance" policy in a crackdown on crime in the 1990s has joined a team of neighbourhood police officers in London to see how they operate.

Bill Bratton was accompanied by London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair on the walk through the streets of the St Pancras and Somers Town neighbourhood in Camden.

Crime in the area close to Euston station has fallen by nearly 20% in the eight months since the Safer Neighbourhoods scheme was introduced, with robbery down 30%, said Sir Ian.

As New York Police Commissioner, Mr Bratton helped cut all crime by cracking down on even the smallest offences such as vandalism and graffiti.

At the heart of the move, said Mr Bratton, who now heads the Los Angeles Police Department, was an "appreciation that dealing with serious traditional crime, you need to focus on working with the community".

Questioning authority

Mr Bratton visited businesses on Chalton Street and the Hopscotch Asian Women's Centre.

Suresh Vaghela, of the King's Cafe and Sandwich Bar, said his property was better protected since the police had increased their presence in the area, and a daily problem with stock being stolen had disappeared.

If police do not have good relationships with the community, particularly in a city as diverse as London, then the game is all over
Bill Bratton

At City News, Victor Patel, said he had suffered "every kind of crime" in the past and welcomed the scheme.

One male resident in his 50s, however, told the BBC locals were "still afraid to go out" at night when the unit was not so visible.

Sir Ian said a Muslim officer and a Hindi officer had been appointed to the St Pancras and Somers Town team as a reflection of the area's ethnic make-up.

The priorities for each team, made up of three police officers and three Community Support Officers (CSOs), are identified through meetings with local residents and community groups.

The CSOs have limited powers - they can only issue on-the-spot fines and detain somebody while waiting for a police officer to arrive to make an arrest.

Mr Bratton was keen to find out whether the officers "had run into problems with people questioning their authority".

"People still question it but it's improving as they are getting to know us more," said CSO Uthayakumar Packirisamy.

'Perfect time'

Every neighbourhood in London is now set to get its own dedicated police team by April 2007 as part of the Safer Neighbourhoods initiative.

Sir Ian Blair
Crime has fallen since the neighbourhood team moved in

Mr Bratton, visiting London for a conference on terrorism and transit policing, said the planned expansion of community policing in London had come at a "perfect time".

Ensuring police have a relationship with local residents is key in dealing with the fight against terrorism even if much of their time is taken up with tackling minor offences and anti-social behaviour, he added.

"If police do not have good relationships with the community, particularly in a city as diverse as London, then the game is all over," he said.

"You're going to be playing catch-up."

Mr Bratton said there were parallels between the Safer Neighbourhoods scheme and initiatives in the US in the 1990s supported by federal government.

"Local government cannot do it independently of national government, and national government can not do it independently of local government," he said.

Bratton tackles LAPD blues
09 Jan 03 |  Americas

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