In recent years, residents have seen a steady deterioration in the security situation on and around Wandsworth Common.

Ten years ago there was negligible crime in our area. Now there is an unremitting stream of (mostly petty) crime - snatching of cell phones and bikes from children, mugging and low level violence. But in 2004 it became clear that there was a mini-crime wave going on which was not being recorded by the police. Moreover the police numbers in our area were being reduced because of the so-called low crime rate. But in June 2004 Tony O'Gorman was severely beaten up. He circulated all residents of the Toastrack about the risks of using the paths after dark. That was the trigger for forming a residents' association to do something about security on and around the Common. In his letter to London residents after his appointment, Sir Ian Blair said that he now had "the resources to make London the safest city in the world" and "to tackle yobbery through dedicated teams of police officers who will patrol every council ward in London". The Common is a huge asset for all of us. If its reputation goes down the tubes, it would be a tragedy.

Meetings with the Police

The Committee has had meetings with the Metropolitan Police, the Parks Police and private security companies. We have also met with our local Councillor, Mrs Kathy Tracey. Their leitmotif is that it is very much up to the community to drive this forward, lobby, see that all crime is reported and so on. The said police said that they would increase presence on the Common to a small degree. But although they are up to strength in terms of manpower allocation, they cannot devote a PC to the Common and our area. They were brutally frank: they are thin on the ground, have a large area to cover, and have higher priorities. Moreover what ever the residents may think, Wandsworth Common is a low crime area.

Councillor Tracey has constantly sought more resources for the Wandsworth Common Ward. She argues that as we want the Common to reamin safe, we need more police patrols. The Met say that Wandsworth Common has a low crime rate and therefore does not justify a greater police presence, to which the response it that to keep it a low crime area we need more patrols; to which the answer is: "It doesn't work like that".

CCTV

The Council have installed three CCTV cameras to cover Bellevue Rd, a further at the station and there are more on the platforms. The Residents Association has put in a formal request for some CCTV coverage of the Common itself including the foot-bridge over the railway line.A camera is now (June 2007) operating on the footbridge – the Cat’s Back Bridge.  A Council consultation procedure in 2006 showed that 88% (of those who responded (38%) were in favour of more CCTV coverage in our area, and in February 2007 the Council agreed to 5 more cameras which will be installed by the end of January 2008.  Cameras will run 24 hours a day but will not be monitored all the time.  (There are over 700 in Wandsworth.)  But the police say that CCTV has proved to be a strong deterrent on a wide range of offences.  The new cameras will be able to rotate and will have zoom lenses.  They will cover a high percentage of our streets, in particular the access paths to the Common from Baskerville Rd.

What next?

With the terrorist threat and all the consequent demands on police time, we have to be reasonable about what we can expect. But the Toastrack Committee will continue to press more attention to be paid to our area by the police, parks police and the Council. As Councillor Tracey has said, "It is not right that ratepayers in our area are not getting their fair share of police resources just because the crime rate is perceived to be low". Residents should report to the police crime, suspicious people, unruly youths and any petty offences. Police use computers like everyone else and it is not on the computer it will not appear on any statistical record.

If in doubt, ring 999.