Westcombe Park: Abandoned Police station = more local crime?


Image by kenjonbro, Flickr
Image by kenjonbro, flickr

Spending as much time as I do in the local area, I’ve been wondering for a while what purpose this former police station building in Westcombe Parck actually serves, and a couple of recent (unrelated) events have made me more than a little anxious about this:

First off, I found an iPod Nano and a CD on the street, and as I was passing I wanted to hand them in to the nearest station so they can be claimed as lost property.  With finds like these, one never knows if something was just dropped accidentally while running to catch a train or bus, or whether something more sinister had taken place.  Walking up to the front door (shown far right, in the picture above) it was clear that there is no public-facing service, so it seemed pointless to knock on the door.  The phone thoughtfully provided outside doesn’t have any instructions and looks in a dire state of repair – there didn’t seem any point in using it.  I just left the goods in a plastic bag on the doorstep.  Four days later it was still there in the same place.  At least the yokels apparently didn’t think it fair game to pinch something off that particular doorstep!

Then there was the incident a couple of nights ago at the local train station, with trains diverted while a knife was apparently recovered from the tracks.  It’s not terribly encouraging to know that quite a nasty fight apparently took place in what is otherwise quite a nice suburb, only a block or two away from a now “closed” police station.  It makes me wonder whether having the station back in use for the public and serving as a base for regular visible foot patrols would help prevent this kind of thing becoming a more regular feature.

Looks can matter…

We humans are shallow creatures and the presence of a police station in an area, even when disused or non-public-facing, seems to make at least some of us think twice about our actions and how they’re coming across.  In this case, the fact that the building is overgrown (more so now than in the above pic, taken in 2009 apparently) and has had a leaky overflow pipe with moss growing all over the wall underneath it for two or more years, the building doesn’t come across as one that actually performs any function whatever story the office lights and car movements around it might try to tell. Perhaps if someone fixed the leak, cleaned up the wall, tidied the phone booth and cut back the overgrowth around the front door, passers-by might actually think there’s a real presence there and modify their behaviour accordingly?  Sure, it won’t stop the worst offenders, but it might at least make them think twice about the fact that someone might catch them.  And perhaps it might make the locals feel more like a police presence is nearby.