Waltham Forest police turn to pedal power

Waltham Forest police officers will be less reliant on patrol cars after the delivery of almost 50 new bicycles to north east London stations.

Inspectors Marcus Walton and Ugochi Ezeonwuka explained in a recent interview that this was one of many changes the force is making as it continues to learn and adapt.

Officers have also begun to focus more on weapons sweeps after discovering criminals were trying to evade conventional stop and search tactics.

And, despite the effect of the coronavirus, they said staffing is “in a good place compared to a few months ago”, with the majority of vacancies now filled through a large influx of recruits.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson confirmed that 45 new bicycles will be shared between forces in Waltham Forest and neighbouring Newham.

Inspector Ezeonwuka, of the safer neighbourhoods team, said: “It does come with additional challenges… local youths puncture them and you are limited to what you can carry on a bike.”

However, the move will help officers navigate the increasing number of low-traffic neighbourhoods in the borough, including Mini-Holland and School Streets schemes.

Inspector Walton added that the force agrees the council “has got to cut down on air pollution” and appreciate that “emergency vehicles are a key consideration of their work”.

Waltham Forest Police are also increasingly looking for weapons hidden in public, after discovering criminals were evading stop and search by “keeping them ready to hand” instead.

Marcus Walton said: “We are trying to make sure we forensically examine (the knives we find), we need to get the message known that you will not be safe leaving it in the bushes because we will catch up.”

However, he added: “I think the perception of gangs is greater than the reality. Historically there has been a significant problem but we have actually done some effective work with the council.

“We have gone for a couple of months without having to issue a Section 60, I do not think we have had any until (the stabbing on October 23), as a lot of the gang activity has subsided.”

As an example of the work being done, he said police have arrested 34 people connected to the Walthamstow Mali Boys gang, “a significant chunk of the people involved”.

The force has also had a recent influx of new recruits, as part of the Prime Minister’s push to add thousands more officers to the Metropolitan Police Service.

Inspector Walton estimated the borough’s police force is in the process of introducing around 50 new officers.

While training has recently reduced from 12 to eight weeks, he said the difference is “picked up in the borough” and that the training is in “many ways more efficient” thanks to new technology.

New officers arriving at Waltham Forest stations are attached to members of a recently created “development training” team, who accompany them on their duties. 

Inspector Ezeonwuka said: “Resources-wise, we are in a good place compared to a few months ago. Neighbourhoods resourcing is the top priority for the borough commander. 

“The majority of our vacancies have now been filled and we are already uplifting high street wards. We are moving from five officers to nine officers for that area.”


Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter