Crime figures rise as CCTV expands

The following article is from the Indymedia website and raises some interesting questions about crime in the borough:


Hackney council have just announced an expansion of their CCTV facilities to make the streets safer. Yet crime in the borough continues to remain high. Ivan Agenda investigates to see why crime rates are so high and show why council policy has created an environment for the crime to continue.
The council announced last week the expansion of two new CCTV schemes within the borough, alongside with the digitalisation of all cameras, replacing the previous analogue method of copying footage to VHS. According to a spokesperson for the local authority, “this will help make Hackney a better place to live”, yet on closer inspection the streets don’t appear to be any safer than before. Latest statistics taken from a Crime and Disorder audit commissioned last year shows the borough as having the second highest recorded crime rate in London and nearly twice that of the national rate. The conclusion the audit reached was that “the levels of crime continue to be high and are linked to the poverty and deprivation experienced within the Borough”, a problem which increased CCTV coverage is unlikely to solve.


Hackney’s financial chaos is well known, millions in debt; massive overspends; failed privatisation, resulting in the demise of vital services under the authorities control. In order to restrict their outgoings the council have put in place a three-year budget, which they say will allow them to balance their books. This year £13 million pounds of ‘savings’ have taken place, meaning the closure of many resources within the borough. Grant money has been reduced from children’s play services and One O’ Clock clubs, adding to the closure of nearly half of all nurseries in the borough in recent times. Six youth centres have been closed in the last three years and if you add this to poor housing, gang culture and poverty the reasons for high crime become clearer. Money placed directly into community centres with trained workers on hand to run them, would be a positive step but as the council remains financially incompetent investments into such areas will remain the stuff of dreams. The council stated they are, “committed to tackling crime in the borough. CCTV is an important part of that strategy to reduce crime and make people feel safer in the streets.” Yet, the local authority has in fact reduced the budget for Youth services from £4 million to £1 million since 1989. Interestingly further statistics from the audit show that a fifth of all known offenders in the borough were under 18 years of age, with a significant rise in youth offending occurring in the 15 to 18 age range. That figure has now increased to nearly a third of all recorded crime being committed by under 18’s.


Money from central government has been available for the borough but has instead been provided for getting the council’s finances back into balance and paying consultants to achieve this. Furthermore when Government provided £25 million earlier this year, they stipulated it wasn’t to be used to “offset savings”, but instead should be implemented to put their finances in order. This has left the borough, which is already reeling from the first found of cuts this year, with the knowledge that a further £40 million in cuts is to be implemented in the following two years. How much of this will be facilities used by the youth?


Due to attempts from financial centres Frankfurt and Canary Wharf to increase their role as World trading Centres, the City of London has felt the need to protect it’s leading status and expand. The borough of Hackney, which is geographically next-door to the financial district and until recently had relatively low property prices, was seen as an ideal area for that expansion.


The closest area in Hackney to the city is called Shoreditch and this part of the borough became the first recipient of money in a Government scheme called ‘New Deal for Communities’ (NDC). This was set up to provide finance to the poorest areas in the country in an attempt to attack “the core problems of deprived areas.” Shoreditch was earmarked to receive £57.4 million and a board, in part containing local residents was created to decide where the money should be spent. This board decided the money would best be given to improving the already existing council housing. Yet the then housing minister Lord Falconer decided to withhold £20 million of the allocated money, claiming the idea was unsustainable. What has since manifested in the district is a vast increase in wine bars, clubs, businesses, houses for City workers and the crime rate. The audit commission recognised Shoreditch as one of the crime hotspots within the borough stating; “This is a developing area and has seen an increase in the number of commercial premises and entertainment venues…High crime categories in this area include violent crime, robbery, vehicle crime and business crime, particularly non-residential burglary.”


A regeneration website ‘Invest in Hackney’ suggests that this expansion is only the beginning, “Businesses looking for the optimum location from which to serve the City are now considering areas such as Kingsland Road, Dalston and Mare Street as very real alternatives and such areas are creating a ‘new’ City Fringe.” Perhaps unsurprisingly another area to see vast investment surrounds the council town hall on Mare Street. This so-called Cultural quarter has seen a new Private Financed library, with five new commercial properties, a new venue called the Ocean, and a refurbishment of the Hackney Empire. This place is also listed a crime hotspot by the audit, citing the same key crime categories as Shoreditch.


There have been several crime prevention initiatives set up in the borough, ‘Operation safer streets’ deals with street robberies and snatch thefts and has seen a reduction in those crimes. Another initiative called ‘Safer schools partnership’, has trained officers going into schools and colleges who is on hand for children to approach them, who may be victims or perpetrators of bullying and crime. However with money being steered away from maintaining youth centres and disparity of wealth between the haves and have not becoming exasperated by the newly created nighttime economies. Any crime prevention is more likely to apply a bandage to a wound, rather than preventing the injury in the first place. New nighttime economies such as those in Shoreditch and Mare Street merely provide an arena for the offending to occur, leaving the issues of poverty unresolved and the streets of Hackney none the safer.