East End’s police chief vows to ‘stamp out’ domestic abuse

Met Police Commander Marcus Barnett at his Bethnal Green HQ. Picture: Mike Brooke

Met Police Commander Marcus Barnett at his Bethnal Green HQ. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

“We have a heart and desire to stamp out domestic abuse.”

Det Chief Supt Marcus Barnett has been borough commander for Tower Hamlets and Hackney for almost a

Det Chief Supt Marcus Barnett has been borough commander for Tower Hamlets and Hackney for almost a year now. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke/13Aug2019

That’s the message from Det Chief Supt Marcus Barnett, speaking to the Advertiser weeks away from marking his first year in post as Tower Hamlets and Hackney’s borough commander.

Det Chief Supt Barnett said his officers wanted to protect victims of violence in the home after it emerged the Met has seen a four per cent reduction in reporting in Tower Hamlets and two per cent drop in Hackney while local authorities have reported a rise.

“I’m not sure we fully understand why local authorities have seen a rise. It’s not about reporting to the police. We have made a huge effort in driving up our levels of capability and support to tackle domestic violence.

“It’s a concern we have seen a drop in reporting. We have a very strong focus on supporting victims. If you’re a victim of domestic abuse and come forward, we will support you and do everything we can to stop you suffering.”

However, one drop which was welcome was in the recording of the lowest knife crime rates for under 25s in seven years.

A result not just of a general drop in crime sparked by the coronavirus lockdown, but of a capital-wide trend, according to him. It is also a testament to the force’s work with town halls, communities and an evidence based approach, Det Chief Supt Barnett said.

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“We are aware that Covid has brought about a reduction in crime. It’s been significant. People were off the streets,” he added.

Central East basic command unit’s chief was also off the streets for a stretch after testing positive for the virus himself.

But he is back on the beat with his team and planning for crime rates to rise as lockdown restrictions continue to ease.

During lockdown itself, anti-social behaviour reports in Tower Hamlets rose 144pc, much of which was down to people flouting the rules.

Now police are starting to see slight rises in robberies and burglaries, which had dropped significantly.

Det Chief Supt Barnett warned another spike in crime would follow the rebooting of the boroughs’ night time economy.

“We’re doing a huge amount to prepare for a rise,” he said.

Overall, officers “coped remarkably” during lockdown.

On the Black Lives Matters protests, the police officer – who has served for 27 years – said while he understood the reasons, people should find different ways to get heard rather than gathering in huge numbers.

“Those that protest under the Black Lives Matter banner and then commit violent crime, disorder, destruction and attack police officers – there’s no place for that,” he added.

He explained that an alleged attack on two officers in Hackney, video of which went viral on social media, included one bystander yelling “black lives matter”.

“That is not a way to protest,” he said. “It’s absolutely shocking and it makes me sick to the stomach when I see my cops attacked.

“What has given me heart and hope, is the comments on social media saying it was horrific and should never be accepted.

“We have the overwhelming confidence of people in Hackney and Tower Hamlets and that gives us hope for the future.”

But he admitted that more work needed to be done to build bridges with some communities, including young people.

“We absolutely get that tensions are running high and there’s anger. It’s a really complex picture. Where we have made mistakes, we have been good at putting our hands up to say we’ve made mistakes,” he said.

He dismissed the idea officers have been heavy handed. In his first interview with the Advertiser in August 2019, the officer explained he was happy to talk to the community where there had been allegations of officers being racist or too harsh.

“My staff are incredibly restrained and professional,” he said.

He refused to comment on the removal of statues, including that of slave owner Robert Milligan in West India Quay, but noted he understood the reasons.

And his thoughts on his first anniversary?

“I love it here. I hope I can continue to work with our communities to drive crime down.”

Call the freephone, 24-hour national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247.