Fresh focus for police in Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest police will start focusing more on smaller, local problems after a huge influx of new officers.

Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Tucker said the force was recovering from a shortage of officers two years ago, rising from 1,150 to 1,300 officers across Waltham Forest and Newham.

He said that, while this was still short of the numbers three or four years ago, it would allow the force to return to a “traditional policing role” and ensure all allegations are properly investigated.

He said: “When I joined the police 35 years ago, we had local cops who knew everyone and solved problems. I want us to go back to that.

“We do really well on big events but I want us to be judged on how we deal with the average person’s concerns.

“When I get letters and emails from people they are always talking about quite a local issue, like people smoking drugs in the stairwell or bad driving.

“We lose (people’s) confidence when we do not deal with an allegation of crime properly. We have got to show that we actually listen.

“We might not be able to deal with some of these issues but we should be able to say we have tried.”

He explained that the shift away from handling smaller crimes was “linked to austerity”, with dwindling resources forcing police to “become more remote”.

He said: “Because of the numbers we had, we got very reactionary. Officers would not know the area or the people, which we did years ago.

“I had to make a decision (on where to send officers) when we had competing demands but we are now in a position where police numbers are coming up.

“We are going to start dealing with people’s local problems with the long-term aim that we can clearly signpost to people ‘you said this was an issue and we dealt with it’.”

The combined police unit covering Waltham Forest and Newham is now almost half newer officers, with 40 per cent of the force still in their first two years on the job.

While DCS Tucker said this “does present problems in terms of training and experience”, he added that “it’s a nice problem to have”.

His “immediate plan” to begin focusing on smaller concerns will start with a “week of action” across 20 wards in Waltham Forest starting December 13.

He explained police had identified three key problems in each ward – such as aggressive begging in Walthamstow – and would ensure officers worked proactively to deal with them.

However, he added that the force’s new focus was unlikely to produce quick results, explaining: “We won’t see the benefit for another year or longer.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter