Why we need the re-instatement of Parks Police
14 September 2016
An open letter to Councillor Anderson, Cabinet Member for Environment
Why we need the re-instatement of Parks Police
Dear Councillor Anderson,
As you are aware your recent reorganisation of the management of the Parks and your decision not to renew the contract with the Parks Police means that there is no longer dedicated Parks Police cover for all the Parks in the Enfield Borough. The previous system had worked well for many years as, although they were few in number the Parks Police did a valuable job in patrolling all the parks, working well with The Friends Of The Parks groups of volunteers. No other form of security has replaced the Parks Police now leaving the valuable assets of the Parks exposed.
Tuesday September 13th was the hottest day in September for 100 years with all the grass and woodland in the park tinder dry in the beautiful sunshine after a wonderful summer. At about 6.20 pm as I came through the woods of Grovelands Park I noticed that there was a plume of thick smoke billowing up from a fire in the middle of the open park area and I could see that a group of about 10 or 15 youths were there and that they had obviously started the fire. Barbecues and fires are forbidden in the Park and I was concerned that the fire could spread and ignite the dry grass, especially as there is a meadow nearby which is left uncut for ecological reasons to sustain the wildlife of the park. It would be disastrous of this was destroyed.
At my age (70) and being on my own I decided it would not be wise to intervene personally and now not being able to call the Parks Police, which is what we always did when there were incidents in the park, I called the office of the local police station. From that number I got an answer machine, which advised me to leave a message or call 101. With no alternative I did both but had to hang on for quite some time before I was connected to anybody on the 101 system. Whilst waiting I was treated to a pointless recorded message from Bernard Hogan Howe, which was irritating and increased my frustration at the delay.
Finally my call was answered and I explained that I was a committee member of the Friends of Grovelands Park, that there was a fire burning and that a group of boys, the perpetrators, were there and that also at the weekend we had other incidents of fires and vandalism. Several Dog Waste bins had been set on fire (why dog pooh bins?) and some fallen tree branches had been set fire to with flames reaching and scorching the branches of an ancient Oak tree .I asked, in the absence of Parks Police, could they get an officer out to put a stop to the anti social behaviour and prevent further damage. (I need not remind you that a while back we had a serious fire that had been started in the children's playground when a piece of equipment costing about £30,000 was destroyed).
The operator asked me if we needed the fire brigade and in attempt to be responsible I declined the offer of calling out Fire Engines that might have more life threatening things to attend to and instead suggested as common sense that if the police just came by they could deal with it before it spread. (Perhaps using their big boots to stamp it out if that did not require a 'Dynamic health and safety risk assessment' first!)
I was told that it would go on to the crime reporting system and be dealt with so I left the park assuming that all would be well. The next day whilst going up to the park for a prearranged meeting with the police I was stopped by a park user who told me about that the fire and that it was still burning until the morning dog walkers had put it out. I was astonished and on checking we discovered that the officer who received the report from the 101 systems had made the strange somewhat lazy decision to do absolutely nothing, as 'there was no crime'. This was clearly not true as the fire ipso facto was the crime, which is why I had called it in and one wonders what is the point of the reporting system if incidents are ignored when reported.
Fortuitously, the fire did not spread and do serious damage and I accept that the incident is fairly minor in the spectrum of Borough wide crime but it clearly illustrates the point that all members of the Consortium of the Friends Of Parks Groups have been making recently that, notwithstanding inevitable cuts, the removal of Parks Police, who would have responded, is a retrograde step.
You seem to have £8 million pounds to waste in topping up the scheme for Cycle lanes on Green lanes, which is deeply unpopular but do not have money for other services or to provide security for the very popular community parks and the people who use them. A questionable approach to priorities.
Perhaps you would advise if there is any prospect of the return of our valued Parks Police officers to provide some security in our treasured parks as it does seem that there is an increase in vandalism since the Police were stood down.
Michael J McDonagh
Friends of Grovelands Park
There were three arson attacks on playground equipment in Grovelands Park in 2014 and 2015.
Michael J McDonagh, Friends of Grovelands Park writes an open letter to Cllr Anderson, warning that our parks are being put at risk.