Alastair Ball finds out about Haringey Police’s new campaign to make the streets safer
The promise of technology is that it will unite us, but the internet and social media also have the power to divide us.
These relatively new channels of communication increasingly create challenges in policing, for example by providing more platforms for criminal groups to communicate with one another or spread hateful messages.
Haringey Police is on a mission to embrace the challenge of using technology to improve community policing. Residents in London can now inform their local police service about goings on in their community on the Metropolitan Police’s website. They can also use Facebook and Twitter to see what police officers are up to and to ask questions.
From these sources, Haringey Police discovered that residents of Northumberland Park, were concerned about antisocial behaviour (ASB) and violent crime in the area. This led to the launch of Operation Marlin in early January this year.
Superintendent Nigel Brookes of Haringey Police said: “Operation Marlin… is a new initiative trying to rid that ward of its perennial problems with crime and ASB, prostitution, drug taking etc. It’s quite a new approach where all the partners are directed by the community to what they consider the trouble hotspots to be.”
It’s a way for the community to feel empowered
The key to Operation Marlin is two-way communication between the police and residents, made possible by new technologies. Community contact sessions are advertised on Facebook and Twitter and offer residents the chance to inform the police of where crimes or ASB is occurring. The police can then make targeted responses based on this information.
Sergeant Glen Walker, of Tottenham Hale and Northumberland Park Safer Neighbourhood Teams, said that they wanted to be a “visible presence” in the community and “to break down barriers”, while addressing some “stereotypes” about the police. One of the main aspects of Operation Marlin is carrying out community weapon sweeps, where police officers search for weapons that have been hidden in public spaces following tips from residents.
“It’s a way for the community to feel empowered and for people to take back their communities,” Sergeant Walker said, adding that they were “working with people from Northumberland Park to make them feel safer.”
As well as working with residents on local law enforcement, Operation Marlin has an emphasis on community engagement.
“A goal of our work in Northumberland Park is to increase the public’s confidence in policing, ensuring that the community feels well informed about policing activity and knows how to contact local officers,” Superintendent Brookes said.
Alongside modern technology, more traditional forms of community engagement are being used, including monthly leaflets displayed on supermarket notice boards and in doctors’ surgeries.
As well as informing residents about police activity, Operation Marlin involves the police partnering with other groups, including Haringey Council, local housing associations, The Tottenham Youth Football League and the ARCA youth group on Stirling Road to ensure the concerns of all residents are being addressed.
Sergeant Walker said that in sessions with local youth groups, the police were “mixing with the youths in an informal way, i.e. kicking a ball around with them, having dinner with them, holding Q&A sessions and really trying to break down barriers.”
Operation Marlin has met with local approval. Tottenham MP David Lammy recently joined officers on a community weapons sweep. It has also led to five warrants being executed, eight arrests, four closure orders and one Community Behaviour Order being issued.
The initiative’s main success has been improving relations between the police and community.
“People are opening up more,” and the residents are “noticing a positive impact,” concluded Sergeant Walker.
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