Hundreds of police officers are to patrol London’s streets over the next six months in a bid to make women and girls feel safer, the Metropolitan Police has said.
An additional 650 officers will be put in place across the capital, with 500 officers being based permanently in busy neighbourhoods and 150 joining London wards as “Bobbies on the beat”, the force said.
The first tranche of officers will be in place by late 2021 and all 19 teams are expected to be in place by spring 2022.
They will be located in boroughs and towns across London, from Hounslow, west London, to Barking and Dagenham, east London.
The extra officers – a combination of new staff as part of the Government’s national recruitment drive and redeployed personnel – are part of a drive to cut down on violent crime, including domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, after the murder of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens, the Met added.
The armed officer used his police issue handcuffs and warrant card to stage the fake arrest of the 33-year-old before he raped and murdered her.
In the wake of his conviction, former Met Police Chief Superintendent Dal Babu told ITV News London women should refuse to get into a car with a male police officer even if they show their warrant card
“Women will be asking the question should I get into a car if I’m approached by a police officer who shows their warrant card? My advice would be no,” Dal Babu said.
“You need to ask for a female officer to come along. You need to make sure there is another officer there.”
Responding to the extra Bobbies on the beat, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said: “Local policing is at the heart of everything we do and we know that we are so much more effective if we are in communities and neighbourhoods, working side-by-side with all Londoners, listening and engaging with them, tackling the issues that make them feel unsafe.”
Areas where there are “extraordinary demands”, such as Westminster, will have “enhanced” or “additional” town centre teams.
The boroughs of Camden and Brent will have two teams whilst the West End will have a single but bigger team.
Jess Phillips, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said she welcomed the drive but felt “fundamental systematic changes” still need to be made.
She told the PA news agency: “More police officers on the streets is not something I’m ever going to speak against, but until they dramatically improve, and not just the Met, but until all police forces dramatically improve their response when women come forward with crimes that men have committed against them, the problem isn’t going to go away.”
On Monday, Met Police chief Dame Cressida Dick announced she has called in an independent reviewer to look at the force’s culture and standards following Couzens’ whole life sentencing last week.
Dame Cressida plans to announce who will undertake the review, expected to take at least six months, in about a week’s time.
Ms Phillips described the review as “sticking plaster” and said she was concerned it was an “improved PR exercise rather than a systematic change exercise”.