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Green Party London Assembly Member Caroline Russell quizzes Met chief over improving road safety

Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell recently quizzed Chief Commissioner Cressida Dick on what the Metropolitan Police Service is doing to bring down the number of cyclists and pedestrians injured or killed on London's roads. In this blog post for road.cc, she sets out her thoughts on their exchange.

Are the Met Police taking road crime seriously enough? I questioned the Mayor and the Met’s Commissioner, Cressida Dick, about the worrying numbers of people killed and seriously injured on our roads and what they’re doing to make our streets safer.

In London last year 83 people who were making their everyday journeys on foot or by bike lost their lives. These people were walking or biking to work, popping out to shops, visiting family or going out with friends, and they should have made it home safely. They didn’t because our roads are too dangerous.

And in the same period just over 11,000 people were injured while travelling by foot or bike – they made up more than a third of all recorded injuries. We cannot accept this as the status quo.

One of the most basic improvements that could be made is to reduce speed limits – cutting speeds reduces the number, and severity, of collisions.

I’m a councillor in Islington where main roads are 20mph but there is no enforcement. While 20mph signs are broadly helpful in that they make people think, the main streets they’re using need more than a brief thought that may or may not check their behaviour. Our main roads are residential, people live, work and shop along them, but without enforcement people are still driving inappropriately fast.

I’ve done community speed watch in the past and people who get picked up for speeding often also have no insurance or bald tyres – speed checks are obviously a good use of police time but generate a lot of paperwork. If the Mayor’s Vision Zero is going to mean something we have to get on top of these lawless roads. Speeding is not a victimless crime.

The Mayor is working towards ‘Vision Zero’ and aims to have no one die on our roads by 2040 – his Vision Zero action plan lists 37 London town centres and high streets that will have new 20mph speed limits by 2024.

I asked the Commissioner if she would be committing more police officers to the Mayor’s new 20mph areas to enforce these limits. Or would this be left to cameras and automatic enforcement.

Her response “I just don’t know, actually.”

She did promise to find out, and while I wouldn’t expect the commissioner to be familiar with every dotted i and crossed t, I was concerned she wasn’t sure about how the police would support a major new initiative from the Mayor to eliminate these unnecessary and avoidable deaths.

I know from my work at a local, and London-wide, level that people feel the police don’t really care about road traffic crime. In Islington I know that road danger isn’t even on the menu of options for local, ward level policing. It can feel like banging your head against a brick wall to challenge the assumption that collisions will happen and they’re just a fact of life.

The Commissioner herself, when I raised this, admitted that while borough police do take road crime seriously, ‘it is of course not always those officers highest priority’.

I’ve heard stories from constituents where their concerns have been dismissed with unhelpful advice. One in particularly struck me where someone who was witnessing repeated speeding on their road was told to report every single instance to the police. A ludicrously laborious process which would, I imagine, only serve to further frustrate people living alongside the road when they don’t see any action.

From local frustrations of flouted rules to strategic priorities, road danger needs to be taken seriously at every level. The Government are putting Police Commissioners in a terrible position where they have to choose where to put their very limited resources, so road crime is continuing unchecked.

The Met have moreover taken 143 officers from the roads policing unit to deal with violent crime – but we shouldn’t have to choose between preventing knife crime or preventing road deaths. We shouldn’t be sending out the message that one group of victims is less important than another.

This content has been added by a member of the road.cc staff

6 comments

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HoarseMann [128 posts] 1 month ago
3 likes

“It is, of course, not always those officers highest priority” and there you go, police prejudice straight from the horse's mouth. I would like the “of course” bit explained, because it’s not so obvious to me.

Whilst knife crime is worrying, it's not usually indiscriminate like road crime and both can have the same tragic consequences. Personally, I’m far more worried about becoming a victim of road crime than knife crime.

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gmac101 [220 posts] 1 month ago
6 likes

If you spend anytime reading twitter feeds from road policing units its not unusual to see them catching drug taker/transporters/dealers, criminals with knifes and those moving stolen goods around.  Roads policing helps deny to road network to criminals to move their contraband about and makes crime more difficult to conduct with the added benefit of catching those who can't obey the rules, causing death, injury, mayhem and congestion.  i suspect if you looked at the costs/benfit analysis roads policing probably pays for itself but the costs and the benefits are spread across too many budgets  

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ktache [1019 posts] 1 month ago
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I have the guilty pleasure of being a fan of 5s "Police Inteceptors", entertaining watching driving Wronguns being nicked, often for more than driving offences.  Shamefully low sentencing for some of the crimes though, especially some of the motoring ones.

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Boopop [37 posts] 1 month ago
5 likes

Hi Caroline, I was at your speech given at the end of the Pedal on Parliament national funeral, and a powerful speech it was too I thought. Thanks for putting these questions forward - keep up the great work. There's a bunch of 20mph roads I pass through on my way to work in Dunstable, and other than one solitary speed camera most cars are quite happy to overtake me while I myself am doing 20mph already. As if that was not bad enough I recently had someone jam the brakes on right in front of me immediately delightful.

Your question was right on the money - 20mph zones are almost useless without enforcement.

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jaysa [106 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

One word. Money.

The police don't have enough resources to do their job any more.

Put heat on your local MP, not the Commissioner ...

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HoarseMann [128 posts] 1 month ago
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jaysa wrote:

One word. Money.

The police don't have enough resources to do their job any more.

Put heat on your local MP, not the Commissioner ...

True. Plus there have been studies that have linked the rise in violent crime to the austerity cuts. Double whammy.

But I did find it disappointing that the seriousness of road crime was so quickly dismissed as being less of a priority than violent crime.

Prevention is better than justice, but the police only seem to have the capacity to tackle the justice bit at the moment. With an effective deterrent gone, things could soon get out of control.