London Local Authorities Bill [HL]
Wednesday 19 February 2003
540. Just as an example, for how long in any given
day are there patrols in Battersea Park?
(Mr Stratton) In Battersea Park, the park
which receives certainly in excess of 3 million visitors a year,
we spend at least 15 hours a day with a uniformed constable within
541. LORD TORDOFF: Could I ask what size Battersea
(Mr Stratton) Two hundred acres, my Lord.
542. MR LEWIS: Could you give an indication of the
number of staff who are dedicated to the parks police service
(Mr Stratton) Operational command of the parks
police is looked after by an inspector and he has Mr Ausling has
his Legal and Training Officer. There are three parks police sergeants,
three assistant sergeants, an administrative officer and 21 regular
parks police officers. These are supported by what we know as
reserve officers. Currently there are six of them but we are recruiting
some more. They are backed up currently by four auxiliary officers
- we are one short at the moment and recruiting that person -
who, if you like, carry out the civilian support role within the
operations room and various other locking and unlocking duties
that parks police have to carry out. The parks police also look
after 12 stewards who look after events and direct traffic and
answer queries from the public primarily within Battersea Park.
They also have six dog control officers who are not parks constables,
nor do they have their powers, but they are empowered to enforce
the dog bylaws within the borough, which of course extend within
the park as well.
543. Could you give an idea of the annual budget
(Mr Stratton) The total expenditure of the
parks police in the last financial year was £1,440,000 and
the dog control unit was £205,000.
544. Thank you. Perhaps you could describe to the
Committee the overall role of the parks police in Wandsworth?
(Mr Stratton) We see the function of the parks
police as to enforce the bylaws in parks and open spaces and to
reassure the public who use those parks and open spaces. In the
course of their duties, the parks police, if aware of breaches
of the general law, use their any person powers. In practice constables
get involved in criminal matters primarily in the parks and open
spaces but on occasion in other places.
545. The parks police charter, or their mission statement
as I would rather call it, is that they provide a professional
and caring service to the community through promoting harmony
and giving reassurance, protection, assistance and advice while
in a firm and courteous manner uphold the law and keep the peace.
To achieve this charter they carry out proactive patrolling of
all the borough parks and open spaces in order to reassure the
public and maintain order, maintain a presence. They deter criminal
offences, including those offending against bylaws, they promote
and improve community safety and those quality of life issues
that people expect to see in parks and open spaces. They provide
proactive and reactive police and security patrols to protect
the public, council officers, council premises and council property.
They carry out patrols in the borough to ensure effective enforcement
of dog legislation and to promote responsible dog ownership.
546. They do have a range of additional tasks, some
of which are outside the parks and open spaces. They respond to
all building alarms by day and by night, which is over 100 buildings
looked after by the council throughout and across the borough.
They search these premises when an alarm is activated and they
carry out the relevant follow-up action. They carry out cash collections
from our libraries and our various sports facilities and transfer
this money to the bank. They carry out collections of monies from
various other council facilities, such as the automatic public
547. I think it is fair to say that there are a number
of other additional responsibilities, if you like more non-police
activities, which are carried out on behalf of the council.
(Mr Stratton) Certainly.
548. If we turn now to statistics. My Lords, we do
have some statistics which we would like to hand in. I am sorry
that they were not in your original bundle. (Same handed in)
If you just look at the document headed "Wandsworth Parks
Constabulary Statistical Analysis 1998 to 2002", you will
see the figures for 2002. Would you like to comment on those figures?
(Mr Stratton) The various arrest offences,
my Lords, range from theft and burglary through various related
offences, particularly in Tooting Bec Common and to a lesser degree
in Battersea Park, to drink related offences, including drunken
driving. I think it is worth observing that while actual offences
remain high and are probably on the increase, in line with most
other police statistics, the limited powers of arrest by the parks
police is resulting in a reduced proportion of offenders being
apprehended which presents an increasing challenge to parks constables'
authority and their jurisdiction within the parks and open spaces.
549. On the other sheet of statistics we have a breakdown
of violence and street crime offences in each of the parks and
at the bottom we have the figures for Wandsworth as a borough
as a whole for those types of offences. My Lord, you will see
that in 2002 there were 124 alleged crimes of violence in the
parks and 100 of street crime in the parks. Those figures might
seem proportionately low, as it happens, compared with the whole
of Wandsworth where you see the figures for violence are 4,875
and for street crime 2,161. Can you possibly provide an explanation
as to why the proportion seems perhaps a little low when you consider
how large the open spaces are in Wandsworth?
(Mr Stratton) My Lord, I would say there are
two factors here. I think the first one is that we do maintain
a pretty high presence, particularly in the larger parks and open
spaces: Battersea Park, Tooting Bec Common, Wandsworth Park and
King George's Park. We visit all of the other parks for at least
15 minutes each day but, as I said earlier, in Battersea Park
we have a uniformed presence of 15 hours a day. This must deter,
in my view. I would also like to say that the second reason is
that Wandsworth is a large borough, there are five major town
centres, and Clapham Junction is one of the busiest transport
links in London, it has more trains going through Clapham Junction
per day than any other city or any other junction in Europe, at
peak periods it has 180 buses an hour, so it is a tremendous interchange
of people and, of course, of children. We have the other town
centres of Tooting, Balham, Battersea, Wandsworth and Putney and
crime tends to be focused on town centres, I would suggest, than
on parks and open spaces.
550. But that does not mean that there is not a problem
in the parks?
(Mr Stratton) Absolutely not.
551. Can you go on to describe what the principal
problems are that you see in the parks?
(Mr Stratton) Bylaw enforcement, largely cycling,
dogs, vehicle related offences, can lead to serious confrontation
and it is this confrontation, sadly, which can become aggressive.
In addition, on Tooting Bec Common, as I mentioned earlier, there
is a severe male and female prostitution problem and there exists
in all the parks, but perhaps a little bit more than it should
in Battersea Park, a certain amount of gross indecency. All those
offences are distasteful but they upset the peace and quiet that
people expect of their parks and open spaces. They go there for
leisure, not confrontation. They do enjoy seeing the parks police
patrolling because with their presence they are reassured and
offenders are deterred.
552. Battersea Park has some 15,000 visitors on a
decent summer's day and these will be coming and going, but most
will spend a couple of hours in the park. This is matched on occasion
on Tooting Common by equivalent numbers. Tooting Common is rather
larger at about 220 acres as opposed to the 200 acres of Battersea
Park. The other parks and open spaces equally get very busy. The
small park which is only some eight acres in Wandsworth, Wandsworth
Park adjacent to the river in Putney, gets very, very crowded
indeed and as more crowds and more people press together there
is interference inevitably through dogs, through balls, through
people picnicking and the rest of it, so the presence of a policeman
just calms things down and if they see somebody doing something
they can reassure them.
553. Within Wandsworth we have some 500 Metropolitan
Police and these are spread across the borough which has 270,000
residents and it attracts many more from outside, particularly
into our open spaces. The Metropolitan Police in a recent study
- I am not now talking about the immediate current situation when
sadly Metropolitan Police are taken out to higher priority tasks
either at Heathrow or in the City of London or north of the river
certainly - had between 35 and up to 50 uniformed officers per
shift across the borough. As a result they do not patrol the parks
and the open spaces because their priorities are far higher in
the other areas, particularly in the town centres, and they carry
out intelligence-led policing activities across the borough. The
day-to-day policing within Battersea Park and all our other parks
and open spaces, and indeed our cemeteries, which make up 23 per
cent of the borough is policed by the parks police. While the
high intensity of crime remains outside, we still have five per
cent of the crime within the borough within our parks and open
554. CHAIRMAN: Could I ask a couple of questions,
one of which is on the statistics you have given. Where you refer
to arrests, are those arrests made by the parks constabulary?
(Mr Stratton) They are, my Lord, yes.
555. The other question I have, and I am not sure
how relevant this is, is what are the opening hours of the parks?
Are they open daylight hours or some of them all the time?
(Mr Stratton) The parks, which are all gated,
open at dawn and they close at dusk. In the winter we tend to
open them earlier because people do like to exercise their dogs
before they go to work and some people like to jog around the
park, but in principle dawn and dusk. The same with our cemeteries.
Of course the commons and the open spaces remain open all the
time and we do maintain patrols 24 hours a day.
556. CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
557. MR LEWIS: So Tooting Common is open 24 hours
(Mr Stratton) That is correct.
558. But not Battersea Park?
(Mr Stratton) No.
559. LORD TORDOFF: Can I ask for slight clarification
on that, if I may. Are there any patrols in the closed parks during
the dark hours?
(Mr Stratton) There are in Battersea Park,
my Lord. In Battersea Park, while it is closed to the public there
are facilities that remain open until ten o'clock at night. We
have 22 tennis courts which are floodlit and they are used, and
we have an all-weather pitch. These are used by people who have
pre-booked. We also have a small gymnasium and the athletics track,
also open to the public, also floodlit. The policing of Battersea
Park continues until it is locked at about 10.30. That does not
mean to say that it then stops because the parks police base is
in Battersea Park, so patrols through the night are to-ing and
fro-ing from Battersea Park and the base is manned 24 hours a