Sarah Olney: SW Londoners turning to private police force

Wealthy residents in a south west London borough are turning to privately funded police forces to crack down on escalating crime levels in the area, an MP has revealed.

Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney told the Commons that members of her Richmond Park constituency were “canvassing support for a privately funded police force” to patrol their area, after feeling that they were not well served by London’s officers.

Ms Olney added that she was “completely opposed” to the initiative and called on policing minister Kit Malthouse to condemn the move and to pledge to provide sufficient police resources for south-west London.

Leading an adjournment debate on the matter, Ms Olney said: “Crime, antisocial behaviour and other incidents requiring a police presence have shifted from our city centres to our suburbs.”

She added: “These are anxious times everywhere, so it is not surprising that people are more concerned for their safety than usual, or that police should have had more demands on their time than before the pandemic.

“However, the feeling that the community is not being well served by the police has reached the point in parts of my constituency that some residents are canvassing support for a privately funded police force to patrol specific areas.

“I should like to take this opportunity to state publicly and clearly that I am completely opposed to any such initiative.

“Everybody has the right to safety and justice, regardless of their background or income, it should not be reserved specifically for those who can pay for it.

“I am deeply concerned about the implications of the interests of the customers of the private police force being enforced against those who haven’t paid for it.

“I ask the minister to join me in opposing such initiatives and to reinforce the commitment of the Government to providing sufficient resources as are needed to maintain the safety of our streets.”

Mr Malthouse replied: “There is an urgent desire in London particularly but in the whole country as well, for a greater sense of police presence. People do want much more assurance that public space is governed and controlled.

“And much of that desire is what lies behind our pledge to recruit 20,000 more police officers.”

Mr Malthouse added that he would not want to restrict the ability of individuals to protect themselves.

He said: “Now, I am a conservative and I believe in freedom of association and therefore I would not want to restrict the ability of private individuals to gather together to protect themselves in a particular way.

“And we see that in other parts of our world. So for example, the Jewish community in this country has its own protection organisation called the Community Security Trust which mounts guards and protections outside synagogues every Saturday.”

Surrey Comet | Kingston