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Business crime: London conference

A London business crime reduction conference set out a new policing and business security landscape in the capital – and for proof of it you only had to step outside, writes Mark Rowe.

The London Hippodrome was the host of the event, which followed an inaugural similar conference at the same venue. In Leicester Square outside on a bright and mild morning, while various Met Police and other speakers were speaking to a mixed audience with stakes in business crime reduction – such as the city’s many business improvement districts (BIDs) – it was instructive to see a mixed economy of public space policing. At the Hampshire, a hotel in the Radisson chain, a top-hatted, overcoatted ambassador type stood at the door, to open the door if a taxi drew up with guests. Wardens wearing jackets marked ‘marshal’ were doing patrols, carrying radios. A white-plastic stormtrooper from Star Wars looked the part, but was not defending the Empire, only seeking the coins of passers-by, as one of the square’s street performers.

A couple of streets away, were more performers on the plaza in front of the National Gallery. Notably, a security officer from the National was standing at the foot of the steps into the visitor attraction – that is, symbolically and in practice on the very threshold of public space.

Among points by Met Supt Roy Smith in his talk – as said a fortnight before at the Security TWENTY 16 conference at Heathrow – was that police need to collaborate better. Examples he gave included CCTV control rooms (given the switching off by Westminster City Council of its public space cameras and control room monitoring at the Trocadero, couldn’t a private sector control room such as in a shopping centre have taken on the monitoring, as a public good? Roy asked) and patrols by private security staff of the public realm. Historically, police have been careful, even prohibitive, of private security doing police-style work on the street. Now private security guard forces are being encouraged to ‘own’ the space outside their buildings.

Roy Smith named Oxford Street and the north and south banks of the Thames as examples where community wardens or security staff are patrolling the public realm. He asked if businesses could be ‘good citizens’ and look to ‘go a little further’ with those patrols. Likewise he called for more co-ordination; if a district has a pubwatch, retail radio link, and business crime reduction partnership (BCRP), they need co-ordinating, because as he said the days of a police inspector or sergeant going to multiple meetings have done; ‘it’s not a good use of time’. There need to be fewer meetings, with more effective outcomes, he said.

“We all need to be challenging,” Roy Smith concluded. If police are called time and time again by a business, about the same sort of crime, and are given advice by police on how to reduce that crime, ‘and they don’t [act on that advice]’, then police will be demanding, he said. Equally, businesses need to be demanding of police: “It’s an equal relationship.”

As for what he meant by police being ‘demanding’, at the ST16 conference a fortnight before, Roy Smith raised the ‘fair use policy’, asking whether businesses should be entitled to unlimited police services. If there is a way you can prevent a crime from happening, ‘and you choose for commercial reasons not to stop it happening, should you have police resources?” he asked. As Roy Smith spelt out, businesses can expect police to ‘push back more’ when businesses report crimes, if businesses are simply laying crimes at police doors.

Do people want police to deal with shoplifting, or cyber? Police to patrol and make arrests of offenders? “Everybody wants everything, but we need to have a frank debate. about everything not being possible.”

This was a point that Roy Smith returned to; if businesses won’t engage on doing things for themselves against crime – such as policies or tactics – is it for the police to get involved with that business? While police and businesses have made progress on crime reduction since the 2013 event – among examples he gave were the Met’s business crime hub, the Police and Security (PaS) initiative and the London Digital Security Centre; and zombie knives. Rather than trying to police their way out of the notoriously long knives, police sought to ask why retailers needed to sell such knives at all.

Pictured; the conference closed with a panel on stage (where Prince played his last UK concert) taking questions from the floor, left to right – Dan Hales of the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), Jason Saunders of retailer Gap; James Lawley-Barrett, of Safer London business crime partnership; Bhanaaz Carroll, CEO of ATCM (Association of Town and City Management), and Supt Roy Smith.


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