Crimes where young people have been injured with a knife in Havering have reduced, according to the officer overseeing local policing in the borough, as he outlined his priorities for 2024.

Supt Simon Hutchison revealed that young knife crime victims in the borough have fallen by a third, as well as discussing how the Met is tackling shoplifting in Harold Hill and the visibility of police in the borough during a wide-ranging interview with the Recorder.

Knife crime

According to the Met Police’s crime dashboard, knife related crimes in Havering between November 2022 and 2023 rose by 18 per cent.

However, Supt Hutchison said that the year-to-date data for the borough beginning last April showed knife injury offences are down by 41pc and the number of knife injury victims under 25 have fallen by 33pc.

He said the work the force is doing has led to the "significant" reductions, particularly in Romford town centre.

“I think a lot of that comes down to the really collaborative relationships that we've got in the town centre with the council and the local bobbies”, he added.

Read More: Teens arrested in Romford on suspicion of burglary 

Havering does not have any recognised gangs that operate in the borough, he suggested, but there can be a handful of individuals that can cause issues.

Supt Hutchison said he has contacted headteachers and they can come to police with any potential troublemakers and other issues.

“We try to focus on early intervention and I believe it reduces the impact," he added.

He mentioned an app that is being developed for schools that records safeguarding concerns by pupils not just within the school but outside to engage more young people.

He also said policing operations targeting county line and drug crime are active that can be linked with young people being involved in robberies and knife crime.

Tackling shoplifting

The issue of shoplifting and tackling store thefts is "very important" for police in Havering, Supt Hutchison said.

Co-op stores in Elm Park and Rush Green were among those targeted last year.

Supt Hutchison said: “We have seen benefits of having my local bobby in Romford town centre and they are assisting us when my team is out on patrols to areas where this takes place.

“I have got a project called Clear, Hold, Build which is part of the Home Office initiative to tackle organised crime. We are at a pilot stage for that."

The Mayor of London website describes the project as a multi-agency partnership tactic to help areas affected by crime.

Under the programme, the police are expected to pursue gang members and eventually work to help the community become less susceptible to organised crime.

Supt Hutchison added that the plan is being implemented in Farnham Road, Harold Hill on a trial basis where the focus is to work with retailers and the community to make the area safer.

The Met Police, he added, has also brought in facial recognition technology that is being used to help retailers identify repeat offenders.

On policing resources available for Havering

Supt Hutchison said that as part of the safer neighbourhood policing programme, all three boroughs within the East Area Borough Command Unit - Havering, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham -  now have a dedicated superintendent.

He said there is a chief inspector for each region and three inspectors - previously there was only one - whilst three more sergeants have been assigned to the borough.

He added the borough is getting nine extra police community support officers in the coming weeks and work is being done to minimise the tasks that take officers away from Havering.

When quizzed about the visibility of police officers in areas like Upminster or Harold Hill, he said that there are always officers on patrols throughout the borough and teams to answer emergency calls.

He said: “I think the issue certainly with places like Upminster is that the levels of crime are relatively low there.

“What I do ensure though is that we have got police community support teams that work on their wards, so they are not taken away and for me they are very vital to get intelligence and information on the areas.

“We could always do with more officers of course, but we've also got to remember that if you look at the crime statistics across London for all boroughs, Havering is still a very, very safe place to live."

Priorities for this year

One of the main ongoing challenges in Havering, according to Supt Hutchison, is getting to grips with violence against women owing to the night time economy in Romford.

A survey was carried out by the policing team in Romford town centre last year with a group of girls aged 16 to 18 identifying locations where they might not feel safe.

Supt Hutchison said: “We feed that back with our partners and the local authority to work on, and we try and make those areas feel safer for them to attend.

"I've got three daughters of my own and it is an issue that is close to my heart. I really want to make a difference there.”

Speaking of other challenges in Havering, he said motor vehicle crimes continue to be a persistent problem.

But, he claimed, the number of cases has reduced in recent months due to their partnership with Essex Police and Met Police’s “spider units” that are part of their traffic patrol teams.

“Havering has changed for the better"

Referring to hate crimes in the borough, Supt Hutchison said people from different faiths and beliefs are coming forward to report such crimes now and that is a positive sign.

He said:  "There's been a few incidents across the whole of East Area that we've taken exceptionally seriously and dealt with those robustly.

We have recently had an incident that took place in Chadwell Heath where members of the LGBTQ community were assaulted, and we looked into that in great depth that led to arrests."

Having attended multi-faith forum events, he believed Havering is a more diverse and "more tolerant society" now and the police are taking any incidents of hate crimes very seriously.

He added: “Havering has changed, and it has changed for the better.

"We're really, really invested in making sure that all people across Havering feel safe to walk around the streets without any abuse or fear of assault and for their background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender."