Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [8]

Session date: 
December 9, 2014
Question By: 
Andrew Dismore
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)


I want to ask you about closed circuit television (CCTV).


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.


Andrew Dismore AM:  Do you think CCTV is important in combating crime?


Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [8]

Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [8]

Answered By: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)

I do and I think there is an increasing issue, Andrew, about CCTV, and it is one that we discussed only yesterday in the London Crime Reduction Board.  We need to have a strategy for the funding of CCTV across the city.  There is a great variety of CCTV.  A lot of is obviously borough CCTV, some of it private.  This is of huge value to the MPS and we would be very careful that we do not allow that vital crime-fighting resource to be degraded.  I am also anxious about that.


Andrew Dismore AM:  I agree with you about that, so can I put this to you?  Are you prepared to pay Barnet Council £800,000 to maintain Barnet’s CCTV service?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  All councils make a case to us and to the MOPAC about the need for us to fund their CCTV.  This is something that is obviously vital for councils to continue to do if they wish to provide safe streets, if they wish to provide a good service for their citizens.  We cannot go around, frankly, offering to write colossal cheques for CCTV across the city, as you will probably understand.


Andrew Dismore AM:  Exactly.  I think I would agree with you about that.  The problem is Barnet, at its Community Leadership Committee on 10 November stated, that the proposals in their plan mean, “Moving to a nil revenue contribution to CCTV services from the council”.  At the end of the current contract they are not going to pay for it.  I think that is entirely wrong and I think from what you are saying you would agree with that proposition.


Can I move on to private CCTV now?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  My view is very simple.  CCTV is also developing the whole time, by the way, and it is becoming much cheaper and more effective and the data capture is becoming faster.  Indeed all members of the public are now equipped with their own CCTV cameras, as you know, so crime fighting is changing.


Andrew Dismore AM:  That is what I want to come on to next.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Individual officers are now increasingly equipped with body cameras.


Andrew Dismore AM:  Let me put this specific case to you about private CCTV then.  On 23 November Mr Littaur in my constituency in West Hendon was sat at home watching the television and three armed men sledgehammered his front door, burst in, pinned him to the floor with the sledgehammers and tried to demand where his valuables were.  He managed to escape over the back fence, phone 999 for the police, who eventually arrived.  He had them all on CCTV, not just the assailants, but also what looked like the vehicle that they were using.


Mr Littaur’s comment is this, when it came to dealing with the local police investigating it, “It must be easier dealing with the Keystone Cops” was his comment. It took them the best part of a week to download the CCTV.  If they’d acted quickly they might well have been able to catch those people because he had CCTV in his house.  It took them forever to -- they eventually took his machine away.  They took it back, they did not fix it up for him.  He was quite seriously injured, obviously traumatised and he is very dissatisfied with the way the police responded to this burglary.


The point I want to make is about burglary more generally in Barnet, and that is this:  Barnet is the most burgled borough in London at the moment; 243 break-ins in August, September and October, according to the RAC Home Insurance.  Even the council in their Committee Strategy Assessment says this, “Barnet has one of the highest per 1,000 population rates of burglary in London”.  The answer that you gave me at the last Mayor’s Question Time was only 3% of burglary offences are detected by clear up charge.  It is perhaps not surprising when my constituents get a response like that, is it?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Before you accuse the police of being Keystone Cops I think you --


Andrew Dismore AM:  That is what he said, that was the constituent.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I think you would want to reflect on those words, Andrew, and --


Andrew Dismore AM:  They are my constituent’s words, not mine, that is what he thought not what I said; what he thought.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You obviously dissociate yourself from those words?


Andrew Dismore AM:  I am putting to you what my constituent asked me to put to you.  That is the point.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  OK.  You either associate yourself or disassociate yourself with those remarks.


Andrew Dismore AM:  I am putting to you what my constituent asked me to put to you.  That is what he thinks of the response he got from the police.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is not what you think, obviously?


Andrew Dismore AM:  I am asking for your opinion on it.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Just checking, OK.  My view is that the police do a fantastic job.  I am obviously very sorry to hear about that particular incident and I am sure that we will be looking at what happened in the case of Mr Littaur and making sure that we try to do better in the future.  Clearly private CCTV is also extremely valuable and it sounds like a great shame that it was not possible to get the information faster.


Yes, I fully accept that Barnet has had a problem with burglary, though I would remind you that burglary across this city, and this is something worth shouting about, is at its lowest for 40 years.  At its lowest for 40 years, and that is a considerable credit to the MPS, because burglary flares up and then the MPS, with the Neighbourhoods Teams they do Operation Bumblebee, they do all sorts of initiatives and they are able to drive it down.  Some of the transport networks into Barnet do seem to make it particularly vulnerable to burglary.  There are people who come in opportunistically and seal in that area.  I know that in that part of London they are doing their level best to tackle it.  I don’t know if you want to add anything --


Andrew Dismore AM:  The point about it, Mr Mayor, is this.  In the year January to the end of October this year there were 2,938 burglaries in Barnet.  That is an awful lot, even compared to September,  that is an increase of nearly 800 in just one month, according to the numbers you gave me from the previous month.  The fact is that the number of burglars who are actually charged is just 3%.  Just 3%.  That shows something is going wrong with those investigations, and I have given you an example of just one.  I accept that is just one you will want to look into, but if that is typical of what is going on it is not surprising.  The problem is this.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is not typical.  I have just given you the figures that show it is not typical.


Andrew Dismore AM:  Let me finish.  Just wait for the question.  The point about it is this: you have changed the system to the local policing model.  It has been investigated through the local policing model and it is quite clear that the officers involved in the local policing model, the local detective constable (DC) and so forth, simply are not doing the job properly.  That is the problem in the local policing model.  I hope that when you are reviewing it this is one of the things you will look at, whether in fact the detectives doing the job are doing the job properly.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  As I say, I would hesitate for a long time before casting any general aspersions on hardworking detectives in Barnet or elsewhere.  If there has been a failing in this particular instance of Mr Littaur, then obviously that is something that I am sure the Borough Commander, I am sure Sir Bernard will be wanting to look into.  I repeat the overall point, yes it has been an issue in Barnet, but across London the struggle against burglary has been extremely successful and it is at its lowest for 40 years.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Chairman, just very quickly because I know it has been covered quite well, but there were quite a few things run together there which, to come extent, are linked but I am not sure entirely.


The point about abstractions, when we talked about abstractions before, it is a bit like good and bad cholesterol.  Bad abstractions are in fact the ones who you might regard, if you are in the Borough of Barnet and people have to go to Westminster or somewhere else to help other people, unless of course you want the help, in which case you regard it as good.  Therefore, what we are trying to do is we are trying to minimise those abstractions in various ways, which I will not go through this meeting about.  What I would regard as the good cholesterol is that some of the abstractions are down to training, for example.  I often come to meetings like these and people say, “You’re not very good at crime investigation”.  There is only one way to remedy that, is to continually train.  That accounts for some, but even then 17% I would want to check that figure, which I will go away and do.


Andrew Dismore AM:  It is your figure.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  The second thing you talked about potential for the police, for example, giving £800,000 to Barnet.  That means 16 police officers’ salaries, if that is what you want to do, in which case that might well be a good investment.


Andrew Dismore AM:  I am not saying that, they are.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  You keep reporting things that other people say, but my point is if that is what your proposal is that is what the effect would be.


Andrew Dismore AM:  That is not my proposal, it is the council’s.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Whether it is yours or theirs it is the same effect.  If you do that for 32 boroughs on top of the £1.4 billion that will be the effect.


Andrew Dismore AM:  It is not my idea.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Let me just finish.  I have tried to listen to your question.


In terms of the £800,000 that was talking about a public CCTV system, then you moved to a private one ie where this gentleman had this horrible attack, by the sound of it.  I will go away and look at that.  We will look, because if it has taken that long and it has not worked that is not good enough and I accept that entirely.


One of the difficulties our officers have is the multiple types of formats that all these CCTV things run.  Therefore, downloading at the scene is quite hard and they have to take it away.  The cumulative effect to try to download lots of systems is that we either have to have lots of kit, lots of recorders and players at the police stations, which we have.  If you do not have the right one you have to go and get another one.  Of course, nobody has to meet a certain standard to put their own kit in.  I will go away and look at this one, because if a victim has some evidence I would want to see it and we ought to investigate it.  If there is evidence on there that should allow us to catch the offender then we should be doing something with it.  You will get no argument with me, Andrew, about that.