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Covid hits police teams in north west of Camden

'We’re not really a service that can work from home'

03 December, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

FOUR local policing teams in the north and west of Camden have been put out of action by Covid, after an officer at their West Hampstead station tested positive.

Ch Ins Paul Clarke confirmed the news to the New Journal, and said the issue was “always likely” due to it being hard for officers to socially distance. In total, about a dozen officers are now working from home on paperwork until early next week.

In the mean time, colleagues from the neighbourhood tasking team that usually polices Camden Town and the borough’s other night-life hotspots have been drafted in to cover for them, in light of November’s lockdown closing pubs, bars and restaurants.

One safer neighbourhood panel head has been told that this may result in a higher police presence on the streets until officers return to work.

The head of partnership and Camden neighbourhoods for central north, which includes Camden and Islington said: “It’s the first time it’s happened to us, but has happened elsewhere. Covid has benefited us in that some of the crime types that they specialise in [policing] have been reduced. Because the cafes and bars aren’t open we’re not getting the same sort of handbag thefts, and table surfing – so there’s less of that type of crime.

“We’re not really a service that can work from home. You have to be at work. Because they are at work, these issues are always likely to happen where you don’t have an abundance of space to space people out. If we had more space, we could probably do that. That’s not a criticism of the estate, no-one could have forseen Covid.”

Officers are separated into bubbles, but Ch Ins Clarke said its success was determined by the amount of space available, a comparison he made to the NHS. He also said officers were not using the NHS Covid-19 test-and-trace mobile phone app, due to problems with the location settings.

He said: “The problem with that app for us that we could have someone in a whole different part of the building, and because the app isn’t highly specific, the positive test who has had no contact with our people, could get contacted by test-and-trace to isolate. Which when they have had no contact with the person or the area that they’ve been in, is pointless. It’s just not accurate enough.”

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