Homeless disguise earns police awards nomination

The New Cross Safer Neighbourhoods Team. Pic: Metropolitan Police

Following a call by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe to bring ‘total policing’ to London, a local police team have come up with an innovative approach to crime fighting at a local level.

Disguised as builders, street drinkers and homeless people, the New Cross Safer Neighbourhoods Team team, led by Sergeant Mark Alger, attempt to create a “more uncomfortable environment in which to commit a crime.”

Alger told Eastlondonlines: “It’s such a simple idea but it works. It gives us three or four seconds advantage over uniformed police officers, or even plain-clothes officers, in catching criminals.”

This unusual way of policing the local community, in conjunction with the large reduction in crime on the ward, has earned the team a nomination for the Safer Neighbourhoods Team of the Year at the annual Commissioner’s Excellence in Total Policing Awards.

They are one of only four teams across London to be up for the award, and it is the second consecutive year that they have been nominated.

When there was a spike in muggings at knifepoint around Douglas Way, Deptford, Alger and officers from his team dressed in the manner of a homeless person and laid on a bench in the area in an effort to catch the culprit.

On another occasion the team used their disguises to catch two men responsible for motor vehicle crime in the New Cross area.

Speaking of this operation, Alger said: “We have managed to reduce motor vehicle crime by 40 per cent in the ward.”

When Hogan-Howe heard of the initiative, he said: “If it’s that effective we should be rolling it out across London.”

The National Policing Improvement Agency has already been in contact with Alger and his team and plan to advertise their methods within other constabularies.

To vote for the New Cross Safer Neighbourhoods Team click here.

Voting closes December 7 and the winner will be announced December 17.

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