Community quizzes Harlesden and Stonebridge Met officers in live online meeting

Sgt Marcus Hanvey answering reader's question at live Zoom meeting. Picture: BK Times

Sgt Marcus Hanvey answering reader's question at live Zoom meeting. Picture: BK Times - Credit: Archant

Prolific drug dealing, street drinking and how to divert young people from crime were the hot topics during a live Zoom call with readers and Harlesden and Stonebridge police officers.

Residents had an opportunity to quiz Met officers during an hour-long meeting on Friday (June 26) at 6pm, organised by the BK Times.

Brent inspector Yu Zhang, Sgt Marcus Hanvey and safer neighbourhood officers from the two wards were joined by Harlesden councillors Joshua Mitchell-Murray and Mili Patel.

Kicking off proceedings, Insp Zhang said: “Now more than ever we need to communicate, we need to set expectations and most of all we need to help each other.”

PC Thomas-Powell, of Harlesden SNT, said crimes are “looking on a downward trend”, with a reduction in reported cases compared to a year ago.

Answering a reader’s query as to what measures the police had rolled out prior to lockdown, Sgt Hanvey said he was working with Brent Council on a new system to divert young people aged 18-24 from crime.

Turning Point will offer a young person a choice to enter a “contract” agreed with the council instead of a court conviction.

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“It’s our opportunity to say: ‘This is what we can do to support you. We’ve put support networks in place. How does this sound? Do you agree?’” said Sgt Hanvey. “If they don’t we’ll have to go down traditional means, such as a charge.”

School staff members on the call asked about provision for younger children, with one who grew up in the area saying: “The issues I’ve seen growing up with hasn’t really changed. It’s a poverty cycle that seems to be repeated again and again.”

A primary head teacher said: “We know the children we’re trying to impact are a lot younger and getting younger involved in crime. What would you be doing in terms of working with local primary schools?”

PC Thomas-Powell told the meeting he was a primary school governor and that when children are back in school he could “plan some visits”.

Sgt Hanvey said schools do not fall under his remit but he may begin deploying youth engagement officers.

“We’re getting some more staffing for Harlesden which is excellent for the community and for us,” he said.

A repeated concern was about antisocial behaviour.

One teacher who sits on Brent Stop and Search Monitoring Group said: “Every single day we have an influx of drug dealers and drugs being sold openly on the streets in this particular area and also on the high street. These are flooding our streets.

“The police vans will drive up and down Park Parade, they’ll stop and have a word, but we do very rarely see people physically going among the young people.”

Another reader said: “I look out my window I can see people right outside who are clearly dealing. I’m quite forward and I shout at people to move along, and they feel no sense of anxiety about anybody calling the police and anyone else.”

One reader said they had seen a reduction of crime since the court-ordered closure of Lloyd’s Groceries.

“I live at the top of Craven Park Road and in the Fortune Gate area there’s serious antisocial behaviour issues that occur in regards to substance abuse and everything that goes along with that,” they said. “There seems to be a reduction of substance abusers in that locality but I am worried, if we don’t have services that engage with these users we move them on to another area.”

PC Amy Bamberger, Harlesden SNT, said: “We are in touch with charities that work around Harlesden to see how we can help them. Without the help obviously there will be a repeat cycle of [people] wanting their drugs.”

She said they were working with council enforcement officers “who tackle street drinking as a priority” through a public space protection order (PSPO) banning street drinking.

Cllr Mili Patel said the council’s PSPO was “coming to an end”.

“I want to reassure residents we’re going to continue with that enforcement,” she said. “I hope that becomes enshrined in council law and gets rolled out borough wide.”

One community leader said street drinkers often had to be out of their hostels between 7am and 7pm: “We got to do joined up working so we can understand how the community works, how we can best serve the community and if we’re not going to do that, just make [Wormwood] Scrubs (prison) bigger and we just move everyone there.”

This Saturday (July 4) Met officers will be at Bramshill Pocket Park, Harlesden and at Gibbons Recreation Ground, Stonebridge, at 4pm to answer concerns.