The Camberwell Society

Society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell

How safe is our Camberwell?

PC Kate and PC Phillip who are part of the Camberwell Green Safer Neighbourhoods Team, with PC Olivia,PC Ryan and PCSO Danny Cloud. MPS Camberwell


Cornelia Falknas investigates crime in Camberwell

Police are responding to community concerns about visibility in Camberwell by making extra officers available on local streets. And the increase has had an immediate impact with a recent operation resulting in an 83 per cent drop in reports of violent crimes in the area, from 42 to seven over the course of a month.

Neighbourhoods Inspector Tom Cornish told the Camberwell Quarterly that the operation also targeted problem addresses and individuals: “There’s often a small number of people responsible for a big part of the crimes,” he said.

Chris Iliffe, sergeant for the Camberwell Green, St Giles and Champion Hill Safer Neighbourhood Teams says the operation was possible because of extra funding to help with the additional patrols: “It’s been a bit of a slog, but it’s actually had a positive impact on the area.”

Sub head Camberwell police based in Peckham

The police officers covering Camberwell have been based at Peckham Police Station since the local station was closed in 2019. Concerns have been raised about a lack of police visibility since then by people such as John Frankland, chair of the Camberwell Green Safer Neighbourhood Panel, who argues that the station should never have closed. Despite improvements he remains concerned about the level of crime, particularly drug dealing and usage, robbery, knife crime, and antisocial behaviour.

Inspector Cornish admits that “it’s made life a bit more difficult” losing the Camberwell station, but stresses that what’s important is that the officers are in the right place at the right time while Sergeant Iliffe says the number of officers patrolling Camberwell has actually gone up since the station closed. He concedes that police visibility is important to improve community trust but points out that some officers are on the streets in plain clothes. So just because you don’t see one it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s not an officer around.

In September the crime rate in the Camberwell Green area was nine per 1000 residents, slightly higher than the London average. Cornish thinks people should keep in mind that the risk of being a victim of crime is “very low” but adds that there are problems with women feeling unsafe in certain areas, which they are working to address.

Drugs and crime

Drug use is one of the main issues in Camberwell, and it fuels other crimes. Not only do police try to encourage drug users to enter treatment facilities but they also issue closure orders on troublesome houses for up to three months. During this time, the person living there usually gets moved to supported accommodation: “That’s been very successful in Camberwell. We’ve closed about three or four different addresses,” Inspector Cornish says.

One problem that has increased in recent years is phone snatches, because the phones people are carrying are nowadays often worth over £1000. On the other hand, Cornish said that burglary is less of a problem now than it was 10 years ago and doesn’t seem to appeal as much to younger criminals.

Responding to concerns about knife crime, Inspector Cornish says that some young people in Camberwell carry knives, not with the intention of attacking someone, but to feel safer if they attacked themselves: “It’s very sad that young people, teenage boys mainly, have that problem.” Weapon sweeps have also been effective.

Sub head Knife crime

Mark Webb, chair of Southwark Neighbourhood Watch Association, and an experienced activist working to end knife crime, has been involved in sweeps, and has helped raise money to provide the police with metal detector equipment.

Mr Webb remains concerned about the knife crime situation, and says there should be more knife bins, more scrutiny of groups that receive funding from the council to stop knife crime, and more police.

“The reduction really does need to come on lots and lots of levels,” Mr Webb says. He thinks it’s important to talk to children early on about the dangers of drugs and carrying knives,

and to give them good role models. He also wishes that people who are not personally affected would care more about the issue: “I think it would make a colossal difference if people took the thing more seriously.”

Inspector Cornish says that there are many ways to get involved, and the police are looking for new recruits. Chris Iliffe encourages people to contact their Safer Neighbourhood team and get involved in a ward panel. “That’s a way of working with the police, setting ward priorities.” (For ward panel meeting dates check the Camberwell Safe Neighbourhood Team twitter

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The Camberwell Society was formed in 1970 and is the recognised amenity society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell.

The Society’s objectives, as defined by our constitution, are: to stimulate public interest in Camberwell, to promote high standards of planning and architecture in Camberwell, and to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in Camberwell.

We are a charity and raise money for local charities. In the past we have raised money for Southside Rehabilitation Association, St Giles Trust, Cambridge House, the CamberwellCommunity Choir, the HollingtonYouth Centre and the Camberwell Arts Festival