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The thin blue line: How Croydon has lost both police and stations

All but one of Croydon's six police stations look set for closure, with the Mayor's plan described as a choice between buildings and front line resources. In a special report Gareth Davies looks behind the numbers and asks whether the borough really is about to get is 'fair share' of London's police... A FEW hours after the Mayor of London announced plans to shut five of the borough's six police stations, Croydon Council issued a press release hailing news of extra officers on the streets.

The statement, which made no reference to the closures, welcomed plans for an additional 117 officers by 2015 and quoted council leader Mike Fisher as saying the move would give Croydon a "fairer share of police resources".

While, on paper at least, we appear set for the second biggest rise in police numbers of any borough, another statistic puts the increase in context – since the riots in August 2011, Croydon has lost the second highest proportion of police officers of any area in London.

The Advertiser has found that, following the disorder, which left 28 buildings destroyed by fire, 252 businesses damaged, 100 families homeless, and arguably affected Croydon more than anywhere else in the country, the borough's police force has lost the equivalent of 63 officers, or nine per cent, of its total strength.

This is a bigger proportion than other areas affected by the riots, including Haringey, Hackney and Lewisham, and second only to Lambeth, which lost almost 13 per cent of its officers.

Figures for the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) officers assigned to each borough between September 2011 and August 2012 show Croydon lost a higher percentage than areas with equivalent and lower crime rates, some of which now have more officers than they did 18 months ago.

In fact, the number of officers has dropped, almost without fail, every month since the riots, from 700.58 FTEs in September 2011 to 649 in May 2012 to 636.90 in November last year, the most recent figures available. Fewer than two people visit Kenley Police Station per day, figures show

FTE data is one way of gauging manpower but is not directly comparable to head count because it takes into account part-time working and job sharing.

The figures do, however, show that the additional resources contained in the Mayor's draft Police and Crime Plan, published last week, should be taken in context of the lowest officer numbers in Croydon for at least four years and a 15.2 per cent drop since May 2010. Head count stats released by the Met are directly comparable to the Mayor's figures, which claim that the borough will be allocated an extra 117 officers, with numbers rising from 623 to 740 by 2015.

The Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) used October 2011 as the benchmark when compiling the table.

But had its baseline been a few months earlier, when there were 730 officers in Croydon, the increase would have amounted to just ten extra men and women.

Even a year later, in March 2012, the increase is a more modest 70 additional officers.

While the Mayor's office had to choose a date to use as the baseline, the manpower assigned to boroughs can fluctuate dramatically, for a number of operational reasons.

Metropolitan police commissioner holds consultation over planned changes The Met said centralising certain units, such as Safer Transport and Telephone Investigation teams, accounted for the reduction in officers assigned directly to individual boroughs.

The date chosen happened to catch Croydon when it was particularly understaffed. A slightly different date and the end result would have been different.

Even if the figures do add up, 740 officers policing the streets of Croydon puts the borough back to where it was in March 2010, a month after the council launched a high-profile campaign aimed at securing the borough's "fair share" of resources, a phrase repeated this week by Mr Fisher.

Under Boris Johnson's plan, part of £500m cuts to the Met Police budget, our share would increase from 3.44 per cent in 2011 to 3.83 per cent by 2015, bringing us to the question – is an extra 0.39 per cent enough to counter the loss of five police stations?

Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell launched that campaign when he was a councillor.

He claimed the drop in FTEs since August 2011 was as a result of the end of Safe For All, an operation to reduce crime in the town centre, and the departure of officers assigned to the borough in the wake of the disorder.

The figures, however, show no increase following the riots, and a spike which may be connected to Safe for All in 2010. Croydon police station closure plans gets mixed reaction

Mr Barwell said: "What is indisputable is that we have a fairer share of the officers allocated to borough command units, which is what we have been campaigning for. Even on the Advertiser's figures, we are going up to nearly as many officers as we had in March 2010.

"During a period of austerity, it's beyond me how anyone can think this isn't a good outcome."

That the majority of police will be based in Croydon's safer neighbourhood teams, where numbers will increase from 73 to 183, has been welcomed by those who want to see more bobbies on the beat.

But, despite the 0.39 per cent rise in the borough's share of resources, police numbers are at a four year low.

With stations also closing, it is fair to say not everyone is feeling triumphant.

Croydon compared to boroughs with similar crime rates Figures show area crime rate and percentage change in full-time equivalent (FTE) officer strength since the riots.
  • Croydon: 94.8/-9%
  • Greenwich: 98.1/-8.6%
  • Hillingdon: 90/-4.30%
  • Barking: 104.7/+3.30%
  • Redbridge: 89.7/-6.38%
  • Wandsworth: 84.2/-5.92%
Croydon North, where crime is significantly higher, will be left with no police station at all. Figures show area crime rate and number of officers lost or gained since the riots.
  • Croydon North: 117.75/-63.6
  • Southwark: 120.1/-56.32
  • Hackney: 127.3/-51
  • Brent: 123.1/-45.5
  • Kensington & Chelsea: 122.5/-35.46
  • Haringey: 115.2/+2.3

The thin blue line: How Croydon has lost both police and stations

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