OPINION - The Standard View: London's disappearing police stations are a sign of the times

Peckham police station, which is closed to the public (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures)
Peckham police station, which is closed to the public (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures)

No matter where you live in London, there is something you’re unlikely to stumble across often: the local police station. Little more than 15 years ago, the capital had 160 open police station counters. Today, the Standard reveals that number is 36, soon set to fall to 32 — just one per borough. If the public saw police on the streets and felt confident support would arrive immediately should it be called upon, things might be different. And while London is not lawless, an air of impunity hangs above street corners. Politicians play the blame game, but the impact of these closures is unmistakable.

A recent report by Dr Elisa Facchetti for the Institute for Fiscal Studies finds that the cost of station closures has fallen on other parts of society. Dr Facchetti estimates an 11 per cent direct rise in violent crime compared with areas where stations did not close. It also reduced response times and the overall reporting of offences. Local people are also less likely to report minor crimes if there is no police station nearby.

The result is a lack of trust in the system as a whole. Crimes are committed, only some are reported, a proportion of assailants are charged, before entering a criminal justice system characterised by chronic backlogs and finally sent to overcrowded prisons forced to let inmates out early.

Boris is back

Five years ago, British politics was the Boris Johnson show. The then-prime minister was leading a Conservative Party heading for a large Commons majority off the back of a “Get Brexit Done” message. Now, both Johnson and Brexit have scarcely been seen in the campaign.

That may be changing. Johnson has returned from a holiday in Sardinia to dabble in some campaigning for the Tories, warning in an unusually on-message direct mail that a vote for Reform UK risks leaving Labour in power for “a generation”. He also is also providing video messages of support to favoured Conservative candidates.

Johnson is still popular among some parts of the electorate. And critically for a Tory campaign that has struggled to find second, let alone third, gear he is able to capture the attention. Yet with his party trailing so far behind Labour, the man accustomed to winning appears less keen on being associated with impending defeat. Come July 5, however, and all bets are off.

Get well soon, Sir Ian

Our best wishes for a speedy recovery to Sir Ian McKellen, after the acting great was taken to hospital following a fall from the stage during a production of Player Kings at the Noel Coward Theatre. No doubt he will be back on the West End, taking part in fight scenes in short order.