IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Islington borough commander defends closure of Goswell Road police base as it could see more cops

Borough commander defends decision, and reveals plans for Finsbury Park

04 October, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Chief Supt Raj Kohli: ‘These small bases are conceptually a good idea but they are quite expensive if you are only housing three people in there’

THE borough commander has defended the planned closure of a police base in Clerkenwell, insisting it could mean more officers on the streets tackling crime.

The Safer Neighbourhoods policing base, in Goswell Road, was first earmarked for closure by the Mayor of London in 2017. The Met has now confirmed it will close in January.

Chief Supt Raj Kohli, who joined Camden and Islington police after the decision was made, told the Tribune: “These small bases are conceptually a good idea but they are quite expensive if you are only housing three people in there.

“In the old days, when they were housing six people, you could justify it.”

He said that when you “start to address cost per visit” it gets “horrendously expensive”.

“Of every 10 visits, something like eight out of those 10 could have been done online anyway,” he added.

Chief Supt Kohli oversaw the closure of Chiswick police station before moving to Camden and Islington.

“It’s very, very rare for people to run into a police station as a place of safety.

“I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. That’s no justification for keeping a building open that costs hundreds of thousands of pounds a year for the one instance that someone might run in.

“People might say, ‘that’s wrong, Raj’, but for that hundreds of thousands of pounds there could have been more police who could have stopped it [crime] in the first place.”

The main police station in Angel is currently being refurbished to make way for a planned influx of officers.

The converted offices will be “much more open-plan” and “modern” with more space for lockers, cars and equipment, according to Chief Supt Kohli.

The custody team, “proactive” staff and Safer Neighbourhood teams are still at Tolpuddle Street, while the senior leadership team have been moved to Holborn police station.

Chief Supt Kohli said he did not know when work would be completed.

During the same interview, he explained what he wanted for the 100-acre park which straddles Hackney and Islington but is managed by Haringey Council.

“My vision is for Finsbury Park to be returned to the people so walking through the park at 12 o’clock at night and lunch is safe because the police have dealt with the issues. It could be safer but it should not be locked up,” he said.

He said it would be hard to dissuade anyone who wants to ­“misbehave” in the park from entering without a “20ft wall”.

Finsbury Park

“So you might as well leave it open,” he said.

Haringey recently ­finished a consultation in which one of the options was to lock up the park at 11.30pm each night and for it to be fully open again by 7am.

The consultation focusing on safety followed on from the murder of Iuliana Tudos, 22, who was stabbed to death by Kasim Lewis, 32, as she took a shortcut through the park on Christmas Eve in 2017. Lewis has been sentenced to 29 years in prison for murder.

Chief Supt Kohli added that he had “enhanced” the police team around Finsbury Park – the area and not the park – following on from a community safety meeting which he attended alongside Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and community leaders back in June. The enhanced team sees four permanent police officers patrolling the area.

He said: “What I sense is that there is an open drugs market but I think we have dampened that right down.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between the rough sleepers and the drug dealers who are drawn to the area because of each other.”

He added that he would have a “three-way” conversation between his counterparts in Haringey and Hackney in the coming week to discuss what more can be done to make the area safer.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged 20,000 new officers in England and Wales but Home Office figures show that there was a decline of just over 20,000 officers between 2010 and 2019.

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