7/7 ten years on: Police are closer to community

Next Tuesday marks the tenth anniversary of 7/7, the London bombings. South Leeds Life has spoken to a range of local figures about those events, their aftermath and the decade since. This post was first published in January 2015. Since this interview Inspector Bowen has been promoted and no longer heads up the Inner South Neighbourhood Policing Team.

Insp Chris BowenInspector Chris Bowen heads up the Inner South Neighbourhood Policing Team. He worked in Beeston until 2002 and returned in 2013. A lot has changed in those years – there has been physical redevelopment, but new projects that were just ideas in 2002 have come to fruition too. The streets feel safer and groups of young people no longer gather every night at Rowland Place or Maud Avenue.

“The crime rate has reduced significantly across the board, especially house burglary, but car crime and anti-social behaviour too.” He says. “Hate incidents are down, despite them being easier to report today, but tensions still rise depending what’s going on in the world – say in Gaza, or an EDL march.”

The police meet with local religious and community leaders on a regular basis to discuss issues of concern. Funding through the Prevent programme pays for two dedicated PCs – Geeta Lota and Gary Blezard – who will often be found outside Friday Prayers or talking to community groups about a range of issues from home security to domestic violence.

We asked Insp Bowen about Prevent. He explained that it’s about preventing radicalisation by raising awareness amongst the community of the signs, building relationships so that people are comfortable to raise concerns with the police.

“We will intervene through education, perhaps giving a young person a mentor who can talk to them about Islam. We’ve spoken with hundreds of young people but very few have needed mentors.”

One of the big changes in policing in the last decade has been the neighbourhood policing approach and the introduction of PCSOs.

“Neighbourhood Policing has brought us closer to the community. We would like to do even more but we have limited resources. We want to play an active part in the community. We will always try to attend events when we are invited and we get invited more and more.”

Could the London Bombings happen again?

“The chances are very low, but it’s not impossible. It is much more likely that we would stop them today.

“There’s nothing special about Beeston. It happened to be four lads from Beeston in 2005, but they could have been from Bradford or Birmingham or Bristol.”