Rose Rouse rocks around Wembley Police Station
- Credit: Archant
Writer Rose Rouse is on an adventure – not in Cuba, Bali or the Outer Hebrides but in Harlesden where she lives. Every month, she walks and talks with friends, neighbours around busy NW10 and meets people you may have heard of living on your doorstep. This week, she meets Detective Superintendent Simon Rose from Brent Police.
I usually go for walks – from documentary maker, Louis Theroux to local artist and barber, Faisal Abdu’allah – but on this occasion, Detective Superintendent Simon Rose, in other words, Brent’s second most senior police officer, can’t be tempted. “I don’t walk in my job,” he says in a friendly but direct manner, as though my previous co-walkers do.
And so, I find myself in his office at Wembley Police station. Not somewhere I normally frequent. My first surprise was how he described his entry into the police force. “I drifted into it,” he admits in a rather winning manner, “I did a chemistry degree at Essex University, then ended up in an olive oil factory in Crete, on a kibbutz and travelling around India.”
Somehow I hadn’t imagined senior policemen travelling in this way. Of course, I’m in favour.
There were more surprises to come. As we were talking, Simon’s phone burst into a noisy dance track. Very unexpectedly. “It’s Insomnia by Faithless,” he smiles, “I’m often on call out at night, and it is very good at waking me up.” Remember David Cameron admitting he loved The Smiths – Morrissey still hasn’t recovered – well, this has a similar impact on me. What is happening to the establishment?
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It turns out that Simon has only been in Brent for two years. So not when Harlesden was declared the murder capital of the UK in 2001. “Brent is in the top four in terms of challenging policing in London,” he says, “There’s a high level of unemployment and hardship. Although at the moment, our crime figures are down. We’ve moved away from those bad old days of very high murder levels, but there was a shooting incident recently between the Thugs of Stonebridge and St Raphael’s.”
Has the change in architecture at Stonebridge and the Church End Estate had an effect on crime? “It has changed,” he says, “the design has helped with policing. For instance, the public spaces were created with the idea of minimalising potential crime. There is high visibility.”
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- 7 Wembley pensioner, 71, off to university with EuroMillions win
- 8 Estranged husband who set wife on fire in Stonebridge jailed
- 9 Noise abatement notice served against 'silent disco'
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At this point, I notice a pair of black, and what I take to be, operational boots under a chair. Ah ha, so he does leave the office? “Only once in a blue moon,” he declares “the last time they were used was in a raid on a cannabis farm. There’s a lot of crashing about in that kind of a job. It was a two-bedroom maisonette with 80 plants and run by a Vietnamese ‘farmer’”
Are the police creating different relationships with young gang members in the borough? “We’re not social workers,” he says pointedly, “we focus on enforcement. Although there are ‘teachable moments’ that occur, for instance when someone has been stabbed or shot and they might re-evaluate their life choices. We work with the St Giles Trust that provides mentoring in such cases. And the community radio station Bang FM has a good new project where they are identifying up to 78 14-year-olds who could use support in making good life choices. For instance, they might have an older sibling who is in a gang but be in a position where they can be caught before they go down that path.”
Finally, I notice a big blue dish on the table. “I bought that when I took my mum to Marrakesh in Morocco,” he says, surprising me for the last time.
A longer version of this piece is at roserouse.wordpress.com