Traders welcome presence of local team as deterrent against crime
The Shepherd's Bush Market police team. Picture: Owen Sheppard
It’s not every day you hear beaming, unprompted praise about the Met Police.
But after taking a few steps into Shepherd’s Bush Market from Uxbridge Road, along comes Amar Singh whose family has had a clothes shop there since 1955.
I can only guess that he realised I was a reporter from the pad and pen which I took notes on whilst talking to PC Thomas Cooke.
Spotting us with five more officers in tow, Mr Singh stops us and says, “These are lovely people. The market traders are very happy to see them and we know they are under a lot of pressure.
“They are very welcome. They are more than police officers, they are friends. And we appreciate that they put themselves in the line of danger.”
Amar Singh a trader at Shepherd's Bush Market. Picture: Owen Sheppard
These six officers are the Shepherd’s Bush Safer Neighbourhood Team, the modern day equivalent of the rather hackneyed expression ‘bobbies on the beat’.
Only their patch is perhaps the busiest, most diverse district in West London, not to mention their need to maintain a presence on Twitter, Facebook and Nextdoor – often a vital source of tip-offs, videos and photographic evidence.
Over recent months, and with the local economy recovering from lockdown, they have been paying particular attention to tackling anti-social behaviour around the century-old Shepherd’s Bush Market, still home to over 110 traders.
The easing of lockdown restrictions has also seen a steady rise in crime rates. According to the Met’s own statistics, Shepherd’s Bush saw 229 individual reported incidents in April, up from 177 in March.
But those 229 incidents recorded last month were about the same number as for March 2020, when the country was entering its first lockdown.
The Met’s stats also show that 40 per cent of all crimes reported in Shepherd’s Bush are for theft, followed by assault or affray on 20 per cent, and drug offences at under 10 per cent.
As we continue walking towards Goldhawk Road, PC Cooke explains, “For a business that has been here since 1955, they really value being able to know who their local officers are.
“It means they can see us and we can earn their trust.
“We talk to the stall holders a lot and if they have any issues they know who to come to.”
He adds, “That means we can respond quickly.”
PC Cooke then runs through some recent successes in deterring and arresting people who have caused trouble for the market community.
“Last week me and my colleague Dave arrested someone for possession of class A drugs, heroin and cocaine, 20 to 30 wraps,” he said.
“Dave spotted them going up the alley beside Shepherd’s Bush Market Station. They saw us coming and threw it behind a car.
“Obviously it was suspicious because no one has any reason to go up there, and it was someone who was known to us before because we had intelligence about the person from a local lady.
“He was arrested and charged and it was a good result.”
PC Thomas Cooke of the Shepherd's Bush Safer Neighbourhoods Team. Picture: Owen Sheppard
The officers are keen to point out that the market’s new landlord, Yoo Capital, has also put its money where its mouth is with trying to improve security.
We’re joined by Mark Inkster from property managers Tandem, a company hired by Yoo. He explains how the landlord’s investment in new high-tech CCTV has discouraged drug users from gathering in Market Lane, an unadopted path behind 34-46 Goldhawk Road that’s overlooked by flats.
“[Those] residents were being disturbed by people shooting up here,” said Mr Inkster.
“Residents had taken photos of what was going on.
“So we installed a camera that was sensitive to motion. After 9pm at night it will let off an alarm and headlight that disturbed them and they decided to go. So it just moves people on.
“Residents feel relieved that we have solved that issue.”
Mark Inkster in Market Lane that been popular with drug users
PC Cooke’s skipper, Sergeant James Burgess, reveals that people gathering at a homeless hostel in Market Lane were putting a huge amount of stress on his officers, until the building was recently leased to arts organisation Kindred Studios.
“The hostel was down this lane and the people were hanging around blatantly here, at the arches and by [Goldhawk Road] Station. We had numerous calls about shoplifting from Sainsbury’s and Tesco,” Sergeant Burgess said.
“There were well over 240 calls to police on a monthly basis and that involved violent crime, drug dealing and anti-social behaviour to a small area, and that had an impact on residents and businesses.
“We looked at numerous ways to make the charity more responsible and we came up with a plan.
“In the end they closed down and moved away.”
Sergeant James Burgess of the Shepherd''s Bush Safer Neighbourhoods Team. Picture: Owen Sheppard
Regrouping at the market’s Goldhawk Road entrance, PC Cooke talks us through how the team have been using Community Protection Notices. Like a revamped version of ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders), the Notices mean someone can be prosecuted if, after being warned, they are persistently intoxicated or behave threateningly in a specific location.
“In the last few months we have issued 25 Community Protection Notices to people causing anti-social behaviour,” says PC Cooke.
“That means people are given a warning and if they repeat that anti-social behaviour in a particular area they can be prosecuted.
“So if they are issued with a notice after committing an offence in the market or down market lane, they could be arrested if they come back again and cause any more trouble. And that has worked a lot.
“It’s a proportionate approach and it’s stepped.”
He adds: “The area is now much more peaceful and hopefully. We hope people will see that and want to come back to the market.”
Another life-long trader, Bill Mehra, 54, who has a jewellers at the Uxbridge Road end, told us, “We have been getting back to normal over the last few months but footfall is still low.
“But the police officers have been a great asset because they do come to the market and their presence is invaluable.”
Owen Shepherd - Local Democracy Reporter
May 24, 2021