Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 14:43 UK

Police sirens 'raise public fear'

Police car
The use of police sirens is constantly checked, Sir Paul says

The sound of police sirens constantly wailing through the streets can make cities feel more threatening than they actually are, a police chief has said.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said it was important sirens were used only when necessary.

But he did not think rules for their use were being broken, and said other emergency services were also to blame.

Sir Paul was responding at City Hall to criticism of the disturbance caused by the use of helicopters.

'Valuable tool'

Sir Paul told members of the Metropolitan Police Authority: "I do think that noise in London as a city can actually add to the whole perception that this is a violent and dangerous place.

"The policy is we use sirens only when absolutely necessary. At all other times they should be turned off.

"I have nothing to tell me that is not complied with, but we constantly go back to check and brief officers accordingly."

"Is there something we can do to reduce our contribution to the cacophony of noise in London? Because I do live in London and listen at night to all the sirens."

The operational considerations of the Met should be balanced against the considerable disruption caused to local people when deciding on the use of the helicopter
Julie Lawrence

But he added: "We are not the only people who use sirens in the city and the total noise in London is a combination of factors. All we can do is put controls on our own people."

One resident of central London, Julie Lawrence, said she had noticed a marked increase in the use of police helicopters, with a corresponding rise in the disturbance they cause.

She said: "I believe the operational considerations of the Met should be balanced against the considerable disruption caused to local people when deciding on the use of the helicopter."

Sir Paul said the force had three helicopters and that they were a "massively valuable operational tool".



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