In the Media

It's safe to leave the door unlocked, says Met chief

PUBLISHED August 23, 2006

LONDON is returning to an era of neighbourliness and low crime in which people are happy to leave their front doors open, according to the country?s most senior policeman.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said the work of community-based Safer Neighbourhood Teams was making people feel as safe as they did 25 years ago.

He cited a recent visit to Haringey, North London, where he met two officers who had ?adopted? a 19-storey tower block.

?How long is it since police patrolled the corridors of a tower block?? Sir Ian asked.

?It?s as if, when the slums they replaced were flattened, the police stopped patrolling. People are opening their doors, leaving their doors open now, or leaving them unlocked, certainly, in a way they haven?t done for 25 years.?

In an interview with the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, published today, Sir Ian likened the leaders of the neighbourhood police teams to ?the sheriff? keeping the peace on his patch.

But the gaffe-prone commissioner?s claims appear to be contradicted by local crime figures and his own force?s crime prevention advice.

In the year to July, Haringey police dealt with 2,834 burglaries of people?s homes (54 per week) and 6,399 incidents of violence against the person.

Crime in the borough, which includes the Broadwater Farm estate where a police officer died in rioting in 1985, is falling but there were still 33,138 incidents in the past year.

Far from telling people to leave their doors open, the Metropolitan Police website carries a wealth of information on how to make your front door more secure.

The commissioner?s comments provoked some surprise in Haringey, where his most recent visit, in July, was to inspect the work of a robbery squad. Local officers said they did not know which tower block Sir Ian was referring to.

Damian Hockney, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said that the commissioner?s remarks were ?truly extraordinary?.

Neil Williams, Liberal Democrat leader on Haringey council, was also surprised by Sir Ian?s remarks.

?Community policing has brought enormous benefits in making people safer and encouraging them to report crime. But we shouldn?t throw the baby out with the bath water, people still need to take sensible precautions with their home security and I?m sure the police officers in that area would say that, too.?

Sir Ian, who is on holiday, has kept a relatively low profile in recent months after widespread criticism. He said recently that reports of his demise were premature.

A tragedy of errors
  • February 2005 With street crime rising, Sir Ian Blair announces crackdown on dinner-party drug scene
  • July Declares Met ?gold standard? for anti-terrorism hours before 7/7 bombings. Later says shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes directly linked to anti-terrorist operation
  • November Accused of politicising police in lobbying MPs for anti-terrorism Bill
  • January 2006 Forced to apologise after saying he could not understand why the Soham murders were such a big story
  • March Apologises again after admitting taping phone call to the Attorney-General, and five other calls, without consent
  • June Another apology for Forest Gate anti-terror raid in which man was shot, no evidence of terrorism found