Hard work carried out by Safer Merton – a team of council staff, police officers and other agencies – has paid off now the partnership has made it onto the shortlist for a national Home Office award – the only London crew to do so.
Earlier this year the team scooped third place in the Safer London Problem Solving Awards for its Parklife project – which aimed to bring order to Lower Morden’s St George’s playing fields – and now it is one of just 12 teams from across the country to be shortlisted for the crime reduction Tilley awards.
Safer Merton officers will have to wait until the end of the month to find out if they have reached the finals. If so they will be invited to showcase Parklife at the UK Problem Orientated Partnerships Conference in September – and the winners will be announced at a Gala dinner held in Leicestershire.
The Home Office will also email their details to organisers of the American Goldstein awards, considered the World Championships of crime reduction problem solving – and the team could have the chance to show off its success across the Atlantic in Seattle.
Safer Merton acted after Merton Council’s 2005 Residents’ Survey revealed fear of crime in Lower Morden was higher than anywhere else in the borough. Rowdy individuals frequently gathered to drink and smoke in the fields and gangs often targeted a park ranger who lived nearby.
Crews put new five-metre high fencing around the park and helped set up resident action groups which recorded all anti-social behaviour in special incident diaries. Teams of local police officers also involved young people in football tournaments and other events to engage them in community activities.
Safer Merton’s efforts have meant fear of crime in the area has dropped by nearly a quarter, from 75% of residents saying they were concerned about crime in 2005 to 58% in 2007. Police have also experienced a 34% drop in calls to the park and the surrounding area, while calls to clear up graffiti have fallen by 39%.
Merton Council’s cabinet member for community safety and engagement Councillor Tariq Ahmad said: “Being shortlisted for this prestigious national award shows how determined we are, through this kind of partnership working, to put our residents’ safety first and make sure people feel safe and live in a crime free environment.
“Safer Merton deserves to feel very proud to have got this far in the Tilley awards and we are keeping our fingers crossed officers will reach the finals. And then, who knows, they might even be showing the American police a thing or two abo