As the fight for votes ahead of the upcoming election hots up the opposition Conservative Party is pledging to spend nearly £200,000 on a dedicated Wimbledon town centre police team.
Merton Conservatives have promised to find funds to take advantage of the Mayor of London’s match-funding promise on paying for six new police officers and one sergeant if they are elected in May.
The group argues division of police teams by ward does not work for the town centre, covered by Dundonald, Trinity, Hillside and Abbey wards.
Councillor David Simpson, community safety and enforcement spokesman for Merton Conservatives, said: “We need a dedicated team for the town centre given that 7 per cent of all crime in Merton and the vast majority of antisocial behaviour takes place in a small area between Wimbledon station and the end of the Broadway.
“It would be a shared service and the police officers would be under the control of the Merton borough commander, but especially they would be employed to look after the town centre.”
He was, however, unable to provide details of how the funding would be found.
Coun Simpson said: “I have not got a clue where that money will come from at this stage. Money can always be found by senior officers of the local authority. It has to be found and it will be found.
Theft in Merton rose 14 per cent last year, although crimes including burglary, robbery and criminal damage were down, according to police figures.
Helen Clark Bell, of Love Wimbledon, which represents town centre businesses, said: “We do need to have additional town centre policing because that’s where a lot of crime happens.
Wimbledon is a very safe town centre and Merton is one of the safest boroughs in London but there is still crime happening which needs to be addressed and we shouldn’t be complacent.”
Merton’s Labour group claims the Mayor’s police deal is just a way of getting taxpayers to pay for a service that should already be provided by the Government.
Coun Stephen Alambritis, leader of the council, said: “The Conservative Mayor of London has cut one in five of Merton’s police, not just those in this small section of central Wimbledon.
"If Merton’s Conservatives think he has cut too many bobbies on the beat they should get him to change his mind.”
Changes to how the Metropolitan Police Service operates last year saw four safer neighbourhood bases in Merton closed with a new model promising to put more officers on the streets.
Deputy borough commander Mark Lawrence, said: “What we do know is Wimbledon town centre is a high volume crime area for the borough and it could be up to 7 per cent.
"We would welcome any investment from partners in bolstering police numbers.
The police numbers are based on policing demand and they are sufficient for the purposes of policing this borough but you can never have too many cops.”