Important curb on Human Rights

That you are now getting your Jobseekers Benefit suspended, for further investigations, if you do any type of unpaid, voluntary work in your spare time, is an important breach into the Right to a Private and Family Life.

Especially Neighbourhood Watch is an organisation that forms from residents within a local area who simply want to protect themselves from crime and help the vulnerable neighbours.

That people are now not allowed to go to meetings with local friends and that such activity infringes a right to Jobseekers Allowance is an unlawful breach of an Important Human Right.

Unfortunately I have no energy, money, nor do I get any legal assistance to fight them. But if anybody is interested looking into this it would be good.

At the moment I am scared to go to meetings with neighbours because the DWP is investigating my activities and I have made a claim for Jobseekers Allowance on 15 April 2013 and that is now frozen till 18 June 2013, so that an investigation into the way I spend my time can be carried out.

I apply for about 3 jobs per day, have been to a job interview when asked to, so the DWP cannot accuse me of not following the rules on Unemployment benefit, but regardless they breach all rules just to get permission to snoop into people’s private lives that way.

Previously the DWP only suspended your benefits if you did unpaid voluntary work and refused the work through the Work Program, but I have not even been put on the work program and they already suspend my benefits for going to meetings with neighbours in my spare time for the purpose to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour in my area. Neighbourhood Watch works closely with the local police but DWP doesn’t like this.

My whole family now gets terrorised by the DWP, family members get called to their office and threatened with legal action for no reason. Other family members get DWP letters on their birthdays to announce benefit changes. It is quite obvious that we are being stalked by DWP.  Important decisions always fall on birthday dates of family members.

I have not been accused of any law breaches at all, but simply the fact that I am unemployed gives the government the right to suspend my benefits if I go out of my house and do other things than shopping or looking for work.

The treatment we get is worst than being given a curfew or restricted rights via a court order. The DWP just takes over our whole lives.

What also gives them the right to investigate every corner of your life is the fact that you give a data sharing consent as Neighbourhood Watch coordinator. Therefore I withdrew all data sharing consent I gave to Met Police because the combination of Met Police data sharing consent and DWP investigations just about ruins people’s lives.

I hae also been informed by the Chair of the London Association that Human Rights Laws do not apply to Volunteers. So another reason not to volunteer.

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Responsible messaging

Residing next to Victoria Park brings more events than planned.

I didn’t realise a drama was unfolding right around the corner, opposite the south entrance and near the London Chest Hospital. I later found out that apparently armed police had cordoned off the whole area because some man in Reynolds House, Approach Road, E2, shot at passers by with an air gun from his window.

All I heard was a helicopter overhead and that sound is nothing new as we frequently get helicopters hovering over the area. There are lots of concerts in the park with even more people coming to visit. A lot of those travelling by underground go through Approach Road and passed Reynolds House.

The incident seems to have happened during evening, when it was still light. But then around 22:00 somebody posted on Facebook that a man was shooting a gun wildly in Victoria Park. Of course anybody responsible picking up such a message would immediately inform police about this.

What would help is if people were to relate such remarks to the correct time or even state to say that they have heard that this had happened.

But if you message somebody is actually doing this then it appears as if that really happens there and then. Of course police would have to dispatch armed units to this ‘incident’ and that is wasting valuable police time.

So please if you tweet, tweet responsibly and state times and places and if you see something criminal happening call 999 and if you heard something then tweet that it is a rumour.  The incident was captured by a ITV reporter who lives around the corner on Twitter. East London Advertiser reports on 28 May 2013 that it is not certain what weapon was discharged and where and that no arrests were made.

Obviously this area near Victoria Park has seen several criminal incidents with stabbings and shootings. It is questionable that this area is adequately secured.

Such incidents result in a lock-down of the area, so residents can neither go in or out of their residences. Please keep tweeting to the absolute facts and do not exaggerate and preferably always call police first rather than tweet if some crime is actually going on.

PC for Performance Conjunction

I just wonder whether this legal case where a Police Officer sues a crime victim for negligence is just supposed to be a test case to try the law on police officer injuries. I think that this Petrol Station owner is just the one that has to bite the paper trail on this because he has been selected to test the law.

I think that police officers suffer from a deterioration of working conditions in that this government wants to bring in performance related pay. Whilst in the good old days an injured officer, in the course of duty of course, could continue to claim full pay for desk duties, it might not be so easy when pay is performance linked. Obviously an injured officer does not work as well as a fresh and healthy one.

And also I am not fully familiar with the working conditions of officers but it seems they could claim compensation for on-duty injuries in the past, perhaps they can’t do so any longer.

It therefore doesn’t surprise me that this officer wants to exploit other avenues of securing their lifestyle, future etc.

Quite clearly the risk of investigating crimes has always been taken by the Home Office that insures its officers. Of course it would make little sense to bring in a rule that says police can only investigate crimes if a crime scene is fully risk assessed and lit at all hours of the day.

If that were the case then a lot of crimes could not be investigated and all dim places would be robbed much more than they already are simply because police won’t go there into that dark corner.

But since the police service pays performance related and reduces the salaries of officers, it seems quite a logical conclusion that officers want to protect themselves by seeking redress for losses of the financial kind.

It’s all good and well to expect unselfish public servants but how much risk can we expect individuals to take? We frequently and too often hear of fire fighters dying in fires, soldiers dying on the front line and police officers being attacked by criminals but how many injuries police officers can be expected to suffer under this performance related pay regime, of course brings about new legal avenues that lawyers will want to explore I suspect.

But from the point of environmental considerations. For the police officer to expect that every area is lit for 24 hours per day, is environmentally unfriendly. Too much lighting causes too much warming of the atmosphere, at least with today’s technology.  On the other hand the garage owner could argue that the police should have given the PC night vision goggles or glasses.

Boris makes a stand

I must say I rather admire Boris’ attitude towards opposition that does not use quality questions and arguments to dismantle his plans. That is what I would have expected in a quality argument and political debate. Boris called them scientific names, oooh.

Much more important for us all, is the fact that Boris came out with information that he is following advice from senior London Fire Brigade leaders that recommended cutting down on fire stations and reducing the number of fire fighters in London.

Now that is something interesting. I just wonder where this information is, who are the senior officers that gave the advice? That is a basis to have discussions but not fast moving amendments that are based on the lack of or late attendance of a County Hall board member to move a vote.

I am rather disappointed with the general press reporting from the BBC. I have not had any decent tables, statistics from them but the usual lukewarm reporting that stimulates political adventurous argument with little substance.

Since yesterday it was also more difficult to find the actual article on the BBC website that explains why the Mayor rejects the budget change move.Of course Boris is under a clear duty to follow the advice of senior Fire chiefs, who recommend cuts in services. I want to know the details of those recommendations Boris, who said what and when. Perhaps it is to find on the LFB website where the policy papers are displayed. I have not read them yet, as I only have so much time to read and browse, I am already kept busy with BBC articles, from which I expect a certain depth and content.

Boris argues quite correctly that if he has recommendation from Senior Fire chiefs to cut services, that it would be a fruitless exercise to ask rate payers to pay even a penny more to keep services that are not needed. It would have been much better to bring quality questions to the Mayor to publicly demand those services stay with quality statistical arguments rather than move a fast motion. That doesn’t raise my confidence in the opposition at all.

PS: I am a little confused about the original article I read this morning because now an article appears, saying that Boris’ plans had been pushed back and there is now consultation.

Death by hand gun the statistics

People killed in 2011 by use of handguns legally or illegally are:

  1. Great Britain = 8 (Pop 62.500.000)
  2. Sweden = 21 (Pop 9.540.065
  3. Switzerland = 34 (Pop  8.000.000)
  4. Germany=  42 (Pop 82.000.000)
  5. Japan = 48 (Pop 127.500.00)
  6. Canada = 52 (Pop 35.000.000)
  7. Israel = 58 (Pop 7.950.000)
  8. United States 10,728 (Pop 315.000.000)

It must be said that the ratio of death per 1000’s of population ratio is particularly  high both for Switzerland and Israel. It would be interesting to compare other statistics alongside, e.g. deaths by traffic accident or various health conditions for example. Statistics of substance and alcohol abuse are also important.

Showing is the fact that prohibition of ownership does not stop use as Britain is an example of this but having easy access makes it an ‘easy’ solution for many to solve problems with.  The US has roughly over 200 times more gun killings than Canada and Japan but US has 10 times more people than Canada and only 3 times more than Japan when Japan is a tiny country compared to the US, it doesn’t make sense to say that close living causes the stress that makes people kill.

gun-control-stats-2013

I do not know about the law in those countries about gun ownership. However I came across another set of interesting statistics about the causes of death and the article says that death by Baseball bat is the biggest culprit. See the picture.

But there is a weakness in voluntary groups

Having praised in my previous post Neighbourhood Watch, I must say there is a serious weakness in groups where it is only possible to make decisions around table meetings, where people meet in person to make decisions. That often leads to situations where some are just not taken into account because they cannot attend the meeting.

I have just found that I simply cannot attend meetings any longer that take place in the evenings, that immediately makes it impossible for me to have an input in decision making processes that are held during evening meetings.

Things are just too inflexible. I have often previously complaint about the fact that parents for example cannot attend evening meetings. Many others cannot attend meetings at other various times of the day because of other commitments, may that be work or something else.

It is blatantly unfair that only people who can attend meetings at a set time of day can make a decision that affects us all.

We have modern technology, are able to have conference calls using phones, we can use camera equipped communications technology via computer but why do we not use it to become inclusive during decision making processes?

John Biggs warns that cuts reduce the quality of policing

Sergeants are about to be removed from local SNT teams in London, that is if Boris Johnson approves suggested changes to policing structures to facilitate £500 million worth of savings by 2015.

That could mean that Police Inspectors may lead 4 teams instead of each or two teams having 1 Sergeant.

What is however also in the pipeline, is that Neighbourhood Watch teams get more regular meetings with SNT teams, who then exchange statistics and discuss concerns. That is a huge improvement to the previous 3-monthly meetings for SNT panel members, who not necessarily were also Neighbourhood Watch coordinators.

That is the way to go to ensure better quality and to monitor and question the quality of policing, it is to become a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator to be able to discuss local issues with police every 4 weeks in either formal or informal meetings. Police will have no choice but to determine their priorities according to resident’s and businesses input.

People always must try and make the best of a situation and the best method to ensure the best possible policing in London is to be a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator. I personally spent the last 5 years developing Neighbourhood Watch in Tower Hamlets for example, having worked closely with an Inspector for the last 1 1/2 years and I personally can recommend this setting,

But of course the great question that always arises, when are people able to meet and fit in with police shifts.

Is Cameron proportionate?

I wonder whether there is some deep-rotted hate prevalent within the top-ranks of the Conservative Party against the police over the arrest scandal whilst the Tories where in opposition when Damian Green was arrested in the House of Commons. We all know that this then led to the resignation of the former Home Secretary from the Labour Party Jacqui Smith. The Tories then bemoaned police powers as repressive.

It seems disproportionate that so much money can be found to carry out an enquiry into banking but that no money is available for our police force.

The problem with Neighbourhood Watch in Tower Hamlets

When you go to the Metropolitan Police Website and turn onto the Tower Hamlets Pages, you see a tab that is called getting involve.Within that is my picture not only once but twice and it says that I encourage people to build Neighbourhood Watches in Tower Hamlets.

I do accept full responsibility for that but now have had to resign that post of chair person of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association, in a situation that I would call constructive dismissal.

There are many factors that led to my resignation. One is the new housing legislation that doesn’t allow tenants to occupy a flat with a spare room. The legal frame work of neighbourhood watch requests that a chief local coordinator makes their own address available for contact points. Here in Tower Hamlets the Police expected me then to administer all Neighbourhood Watch records but no office room was made available for that purpose. I am not allowed to have a spare room in my home as I am a tenant. That automatically discriminates against social housing tenants becoming Neighbourhood Watch coordinators, which is something that I wholly despise.

When I look at boroughs like Wandsworth where Neighbourhood Watch displays the best model of how it’s done, I thought I could establish a similar model in Tower Hamlets. Yet in Wandsworth the council heavily supports Neighbourhood Watch also in the aministrative functions, they create and distribute promotional material including stickers, leaflets, watch signs etc.

Here in Tower Hamlets the council refuses to do any such tasks, I had been asked to collect all window stickers from the town hall and keep them in my bedroom. I had ordered 50 Neighbourhood Watch signs, which I could not store in my flat any more either. Yet when I called the Town Hall to enquire how to get permission to put up the signs, nobody could help, I was given a telephone extension that was never answered.

All the council does in Tower Hamlets is provide a couple of Internet pages that explain about Neighbourhood Watch and has links to associated websites. Yet as explained in my previous post, other councils actively support Neighbourhood Watch schemes and also administer them but not in Tower Hamlets. No Neighbourhood Watch Association can exist alone. There are so many problems that require data sharing and if its only the knowledge which housing landlord is responsible for which estate, basic things like that.

Whilst I was given the opportunity to be the chair of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association lately there was  not one other watcher who would actually become a member of the board and act as Secretary, Vice-chair, treasurer. I ended up doing all those jobs.

Furthermore in Wandsworth all watch coordinators have to undergo a Criminal Bureau Records check whilst here in Tower Hamlets there is nothing of that sort even in place. Not even the police check up on watch coordinators unless they are the top people like myself. I have been checked many times over in recent years and there is no black spot in my life but I am not certain abut other coordinators in the borough. I personally had extended CRB checks done because I volunteer in schools.

On the Ourwatch website, anyone can register, draw around an area and call themselves a watch, with the benefit of getting tailored crime reports for the area they are registered with on the site and they can also make use of the excellent communication system that the site brings with it but that doesn’t mean that anybody seen on the site as a watch is actually a properly registered watch. Now the legal system has changed and only approved persons can use the Neighbourhood Watch logo and produce material using the wording and the picture logos as they can be downloaded from the Ourwatch website.

But there is still no requirement that any person wanting to be in neighbourhood watch must have a criminal record check, any watch coordinator can have a criminal record or even be a registered sex offender. Though I must admit that it is unlikely that criminals would want to be watch coordinators but not impossible.

Without the pro-active support of the council and little checking of individual coordinators in Tower Hamlets I see little chance of this getting to be a good system. I have even resigned from my local SNT panel because I do not like to be discussing problems with ever changing PCSO officers and cannot see how the current system reduces crime in the long run. The statistics show that Tower Hamlets has twice as much crime as the City of London on a permanent basis. Sorry to Commander Rickett who says crime could not get any lower in the borough, I disagree.

Please see also my previous post to explain in length how my perceive the problem with policing in the area.

I think that Neighbourhood Watch is an excellent system in boroughs like Wandsworth or Bexley where there is at least good and active council support in both boroughs, though Bexley does not carry out a CRB check on coordinators but for Tower Hamlets where there is no proper infrastructure, I feel a lot of work has to be done. Now at least some money has been allocated to us and we can hope againl. I think that Neighbourhood Watch is a viable in most areas and especially in areas where there is a good infrastructure supporting it from the council as well as the police.

I found myself loading a pram full of boxes and bags and carting the lot to my local police station and giving it all to them because I needed some storage space for materials. I still have my endorsement for Neighbourhood Watch in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on the Met Police website.

PS: in up-date to this post, I continue to do the daily work and hope to engage more with both council and local residents to build up a better and stronger watch network. It’s a matter of more engagement and getting to know local watches and encouraging others to ask the council to hold a bigger stake in Neighbourhood Watch. Also policing will change in the autumn, I hope for the better, at the next Association meeting we will get more details,all wait for 19 June.

Justice suffering the same fate as shops

On first sight this seems s strange comparison to make but when I look at the latest developments in that regular Police Officers are more and more replaced by less trained and qualified PCSO I immediately think of the shopping assistant syndrome, at least that is what I call it.

The deterioration of the shopping assistants’ job is the best example to show how customer care deteriorates in private profit making establishments. When I was young, you needed to do a 3 1/2 years apprenticeship to call yourself a book seller; today you just start working in a book shop. When you go into a shop as customer it is often hard to find a shopping assistant with good product knowledge, sometimes they don’t even know which shelf to look at.

That is about the same as putting less qualified police officer replacements on the beat. And those less qualified officers get more powers of arrest. The same type of policies are put through all types of services, nurses get more doctor’s responsibilities too.

But the big difference is when we compare professions, it is not just the lesser qualification that gives people more responsibility to save money, it is the working pattern that sets PCSO’s apart from the rest.

With shopping assistants as well as nurses you get set working hours and a service that is open at regular hours, hours that are transparent to all of us but with PCSO’s you get to find that they have shift patterns we do not get to know publicly. They only work so and so often and we cannot rely on them to actually be there when we need them. Whilst the PCSO is supposed to be the local link between police and the population we get a high frequency in staff turnover and in population turnover because tenancy agreement times have become shorter.

At the same time whilst those less qualified PCSO and other supplementary officers get higher powers of arrest, we get a streamlined justice service that tries to squeeze trials within a 6-week time frame, defendants are asked to enter guilty or not guilty pleas without getting to see all evidence against them, which is feared leads to miss-carriage of justice.

What we end up with is the type of Community Enforcement Officer or PCSO that is rough an ready to confiscate, arrest and engage in restraint, less time to conduct trials and hi presto we have the streamline justice system that produces quickly sentenced trouble makers who are put behind bars or transferred to “voluntary” work schemes to keep them out of trouble. You won’t know who in your community is a genuine volunteer or who is sentenced to do unpaid work.

It is particularly concerning that local people are encouraged to ring their local SNT team with local problems not knowing whether they actually work at that time. Often callers get confronted with long answer machine messages that puts anybody off from leaving a message.

At the same time the police also promotes people ringing the 101 number in non urgent cases and SNT teams are more integrated with regular police teams. So why distinguish between an SNT  number that might not be manned and an 101 number that is always manned?

The 101 operator can always pass a call onto a local SNT team when he knows they are on shift, which is a much better system than asking the people to ring a SNT team that might be off shift and that often puts people off from reporting crime. That opens the question, why do we need SNT teams at all, when we just can have the local police officer that is stationed at the local station and patrols his area? Local officers that work regular hours and not some silly shifts whereby the shift-patterns are only known to the police themselves.

It was always a frequent complaint that SNT officers are not long enough in the job to actually get to know their community. In London it is no longer than 1 year and in the counties it is 2 years. But looking to replace the regular police officers with more SNT PCSO officers who are not always working is irresponsible to say the least.

I don’t think any Neighbourhood Watch can function properly in a busy inner-city area with lots of problem, which are often compound, persistent and complex. Taking that residents change a lot and police teams change a lot, there is little continuity and if that is coupled with less training of the officers that can only lead to more problems. There is also no training for Neighbourhood Watchers available at all. Policies change frequently; we have seen lots of changes in policing recently and that always creates grey areas.

If you then get a police meeting that is staffed with half-trained short-stay PCSO officers and residents, which have no training at all but plenty of fears, you get a lot of dissatisfaction on all sides. What public meetings need are highly qualified local police officers who can assure the public that the law is in safe hands and who through their sincerity encourage people to approach problems systematically an calmly and not rough and ready PCSO and other officers who just man-handle subjects to stop a situation.  Then we get the problem that officers shift problems from one geographical area to another and the area with the least resistance gets it all.

I think Britain deserves better than that and I cannot blame for people being discouraged from wanting to attend SNT meetings. There is little point in getting to meet a newly recruited PCSO who stands around your street corner for 10 minutes at a time to discuss a problem that takes half hour to explain either.

Taking all those points into account I felt myself unable to continue acting voluntarily for the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association and also feel unable to continue acting as Neighbourhood Watch coordinator.

Please do not understand me wrong, there are some excellent PCSO officers but there are also quite a few who just want to get stuck in.

Of course it does help that the government wants  to curb irresponsible selling of alcohol and it does help that more acceptable behaviour contracts are drawn up with local residents but that is hardly discussed with locals because of confidentiality concerns.

Neighbourhood Watch hardly even gets to know which social landlord administers which estate, but if a council does not provide that essential administrative back-up then there is little point in having Neighbourhood Watch. There needs to be some permanence in a service and if in a borough neither the council nor the police provide that permanence then a load of civilians who try to keep a check on things cannot achieve a lot because they have no access to information.

The Police just try to out-source whatever they can to cope with less money and councils also have cuts to incorporate and no spare cash laying around.

In the end the individual residents have to take charge of their own lives and if everybody just keeps their own little area clean and safe then our whole country would be crime free in no time at all.  It concerns me a great deal that policing priorities are set according to the amount of calls an area receives from concerned residents. What if in an area the residents do not care about crime but actually welcome it. The police won’t get complaints and so do very little to police the area,which is a bad strategy. I can see that with SNT panels  now those areas with the most engaged residents attending the panel meetings get the most police attention whilst others are left to rot with the crime. That is not the quality of service I would expect from the police to happen. I cannot see that such panels actually help and I cannot see how any committees can achieve anything because nobody gets to see the police records and cannot even follow the route of the crime or whatever is involved.

The police should police an area adn give an area as much attention as needed because they see that there is crime going on. the tell tale signs of crime are easy enough to detect and measures must be taken to stop for an area to rot into anti-social behaviour whether the residents complain or not.

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