We speak to Inspector Dominique Ionnaou and Sergeant Paul Threadgold from the British Transport Police (BTP) about their work at London Bridge station. Inspector Ionnaou has worked for the BTP for 13 years, coming from a Stakeholder Liaison Role on the underground with Transport for London. Her desire to return to a frontline policing role brought her to London Bridge station, where she has been an Inspector since 2016.
Firstly, how do the British Transport Police differ from the Metropolitan police?
DI: We’re are not funded by the Home Office, we are funded by Network Rail and train operating companies. We have all the same police powers as the Metropolitan Police plus additional railway-related authority applicable to railway bylaws and specific railway related offences. Our jurisdiction is train stations, railway tracks and anything railway related.
How big is the team at London Bridge station/ what’s a typical schedule for the day?
DI: Our team is made up of over 30 people. The day to day schedule varies; mine will be centered around stakeholder meetings, crime and investigation management and event policing.
PT: Generally, I’ll check if there’s anything to handover and brief the team. If there’s anything that needs to be dealt with, we’ll deploy officers as needed. The officers then go straight out into the station during peak times for high visibility patrols, before they return and get their patrol instructions for the day. On a late shift we have ‘Op Shepherd’ patrols which are late night patrols for people getting the train home after drinking and are perhaps a bit rowdy on the trains out of London Bridge, so we’re essentially shepherding them home.
An officer shouldn’t be conducting policing based around targets – it should be all encompassing.
What are your priorities as London Bridge Station Commander?
DI: From the 1st April we’ve set new policing priorities. Moving away from figures and focusing on the general concept of doing the right thing. An officer shouldn’t be conducting policing based around targets – it should be all encompassing. The new model ‘Threat, Risk and Harm’ encourages us to focus on what’s important to our community and our stakeholders. Things like reducing crime, improving conditions for the community and safeguarding rail staff.
PT: An operation specific example would be an issue we had on the 149 bus, which arrives at London Bridge. Homeless people tend to use the bus to sleep on – rather than the approach being ‘get off the bus’, we’ve got two officers working with TfL and a team from Outreach workers so that when the buses arrive, a team will be on hand to give these people assistance, rather than just displacing them.
DI: We also work closely with the railways to make sure the trains are running safely, securely and on time. Any crime related disruption to the train services from graffiti to trespassing can have a major impact, asides from the monetary implications, our focus is to make sure that the people travelling on those trains can get to where they’re going: we appreciate that the journey might be really important for them.
It’s part of my job to return my team, the railway station and travelling public to a state of normality following horrendous events like this.
What’s the most memorable incident you’ve experienced at the station so far?
PT: We had a CPR incident where a gentleman on the Jubilee line went into cardiac arrest on the train. We had to use the defibrillator and assist in giving CPR whilst supervising an emergency helicopter landing to take him to hospital. Every single staff member is trained in using the defibrillators, but we were very lucky in this case as there was an off duty doctor in the carriage. Thankfully, he seemed to be stable when he left but unfortunately we don’t get updates once they leave the station due to data protection.
DI: For me it has been the last few weeks following the London Bridge terrorism attack, where one of my officers PC Wayne Marques was seriously injured. It’s part of my job to return my team, the railway station and travelling public to a state of normality following horrendous events. It was particularly challenging on this occasion as it was so close to home, and I could see first-hand the impact on my officers and my community. The focus of our work has been on reassuring the public, and the outpouring of support we have received has been overwhelming.
How do you find the reaction is normally to BTP?
DI: Generally, we have a positive reaction. There will always be a small minority that we have negative reactions from however they are just that. A minority. Certainly over the last 10 years our organisation has become one of the highest quality: We have excpetional officer standards, equipment and processes: we are specialists in what we do. I think the public appreciate what we’re doing and we’ve got strong relationships with our stakeholders and staff in the station.
London Bridge Station is due for completion in 2018. With 80 retailers and a concourse bigger than Wembley Stadium pitch, how will this present new challenges for BTP?
PT: Yes we’ve been told the concourse will be the largest in Europe! Obviously the increase in retail is going to have a big impact. At the moment we’re monitoring new shop openings and making sure there’s an officer ready to go in on day one and introduce our services and see what the shop needs. We also try and approach businesses beforehand, to give them support with how they might determine the design and layout of their stores to minimize shoplifting.
Is your team going to increase?
DI: We’ve just had a recent increase in officers as a result of a Demand Review (which places our officers in the right places at the right times to meet calls for service). Although our officers are dealing with and responding to incidents every day, my aim is that we remain a very low crime environment. The good work my team do in regards to high visibility patrolling, crime prevention advice and public engagement will discourage criminals from operating on our station.
I equate it to when the licensing hours changed for the pubs… The Night Tube doesn’t actually encourage people to change their behaviour, it gives them more options to get home safely.
Your previous role involved heading the plans for the introduction of the Night Tube, which launched in August last year. Do you think the impact of the service has lived up to expectations?
DI: Overall, we didn’t expect an increase in crime and we didn’t anticipate a negative impact on the community; we saw it as a positive. The main problems that arose prior to the night-tube were people who’d be out enjoying the area at night (maybe a little too much!), and then getting frustrated when they couldn’t get home. This is often when we’d be faced with fights and disruptive behavior. I equate it to when the licensing hours changed for the pubs: everyone thought it was going to be chaos with everyone out drinking all night – that wasn’t the case. The Night Tube doesn’t actually encourage people to change their behavior, it gives them more options to get home safely.
PT: The great thing is we haven’t got hundreds of people leaving the pubs at midnight and getting on the tube anymore, it’s staggered.
DI: Some residents near the stations were concerned with an increase in litter and noise, so myself and Tfl went out to Borough engagement meetings and set up processes for early reporting and working together to nip any problems in the bud. It’s working well and I hope it continues.
Some of the station occupiers are linked via a Team London Bridge-funded radio system – how useful have these radios been in linking businesses to BTP?
PT: We find they work very well when they’re used correctly. Especially when it comes to shoplifters. It saves so much time – with a regular call it could take up to 6-7 mins for an officer to reach the scene, whereas with the radio it’s almost an immediate response.
Do you have any advice any local businesses using the radios?
PT: It takes that bit of practice to pick up radio speak. When a member of the public is using a radio they’re not familiar with in a panicked situation, the instinct might be to shout for help, but we need to know who they are, where they are and what’s happened.
DI: There’s 3 things you need to focus on Think, Pause, Speak. Think about what you want to say, Pause after pressing the button (sometimes radio transmissions are cut off at the beginning), Speak directly and try to communicate a clear concise message about what the issue is and what you need. This helps us deploy the correct type, and correct number of resources to assist.
Are there any specific campaigns relevant to the London Bridge area at the moment?
DI: We have a force wide campaign which is ‘Report it to Stop it’. It’s a campaign we’ve recently re-launched around sexual offending on the railway network, encouraging people to report any type of offending or suspicious behavior to us. We found people were worried they wouldn’t be taken seriously, which needs to stop. I would encourage people to take a few minutes to view our video online because if you report these offenses to BTP you will be believed, you will be taken seriously and we will do all we can to bring offenders to justice. It’s a campaign I’m particularly passionate about.
We’ve also had some joint communication with the MET about some people posing as police officers in the area. They actually tend to target tourists, but we rely on the local community to be our eyes and ears. They’re approaching tourists, searching them and removing valuable items from them.
Any final advice for the community?
PT: Theft. Be aware of your surroundings – put your phone in your inside pocket, don’t leave your bags or personal items on a seat of the train and go wandering off. It’s nice to be trusting but we see the other side of it. Keep your belongings safe.