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Outgoing Bexley police chief denies teen gang problems in staunch defence of his record

PUBLISHED: 17:13 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 17:21 24 November 2016

Outgoing head of Bexley police Jeff Boothe

Outgoing head of Bexley police Jeff Boothe

Archant

Chief supt Jeff Boothe has spoken to the Bexley Times ahead of his move to Croydon

Outgoing head of Bexley police Jeff Boothe has denied the borough has a problem with teenage gangs and mounted a staunch defence of his record as borough commander.

Chief superintendent Boothe was appointed Bexley borough commander in March 2015, but at the beginning of October he announced he would take over as Croydon borough commander on December 10.

Recent months have seen a number of serious incidents make headlines, and a mass brawl at Northumberland Heath on September 19 sparked fears that teenage gangs are turning parts of the borough into no-go areas.

Speaking ahead of his departure, chief supt Boothe told the Bexley Times: “The word gangs is very emotive. If you are saying there is potentially a gangs problem in Bexley, I would say there is not.

“Was there a disturbance? Of course there was. Did our officers respond to it? Of course they did.

“The question is what was the cause and the approach has been what can we do in partnership with others to find out what the cause was?

“We have been working very closely with schools to identify whether or not there are issues. There is an ongoing investigation and there have been a number of arrests.

“It is not a gangs issue and not specifically a schools issue. Because Bexley is quite a low-crime area, when you have incidents like this it appears worse. In any other area, it probably would not have made such headlines.”

News of chief supt Boothe’s departure less than two years after his appointment raised concerns that the borough’s police chiefs are not being given sufficient time to make an impact on crime levels.

Chairman of Bexley Neighbourhood Watch Dana Wiffen said the borough appeared to be “the breaking-in ground for borough commanders”.

Chief supt Boothe responded: “In policing you try to look at continuity and stability, but when you are overseeing an organisation but when you are overseeing an organisation the size of the Met you can’t always manage that.

“While Bexley has had a relatively high number in terms of changes in borough commanders, there has been a year-on-year improvement in performance.

“It is about the officers on the front line, day in, day out. As long as the service we provide is good, it is not as important as the borough commander.

“I was approached and given an opportunity of going to another borough and I took that opportunity. It is a disciplined service and we go where we are asked to go.

“My successor is my current number two Stuart Bell, so there is that continuity and an individual who is extremely talented.

“Stuart knows the individuals and has been a part of the team that has delivered this performance.”

Figures from the Met Police released earlier this year showed crime had risen by 2.5 per cent during chief supt Boothe’s tenure, with 30,000 more reported incidents between March 2015 and March 2016.

The total number of reported violent crimes rose by more than 500, while the homicide rate more than doubled and rape cases climbed above 100.

But the outgoing borough commander mounted a staunch defence of his record.

“Figures are all about how you interpret them. Of course a crime is a crime, but we have to look at the overall crime trends,” he said.

“Over the time I have been here there has been a 40 per cent reduction in burglaries, and in terms of robberies there has been a 45 per cent reduction.

“Violence due to injury has seen an increase and there are a number of reasons, such as changes to reporting rules and classification.”

Chief supt Boothe added that the police have been doing a great deal to tackle domestic abuse, and this has given them a better idea of the levels at which such crimes occur.

“We are unashamedly proud of the fact that we have one of the lowest crime records,” he said. “We have the lowest crime level across the whole of the country per 1,000 residents.

“While I am not complacent, it is about putting things into perspective. Any crime is one too many, but we are doing our utmost to prevent them.”

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