Does your local park frighten you? Is it full of rampaging knife-wielders and dangerous dogs? Would you go more often, were it not for the drug-addicts, pickpockets and nuisance cyclists? Well, fear not, because Boris has a plan. A special accolade to boost safety in London's parks above current rock-bottom levels. The Mayor's Safer Parks Award.
That's 'safer' parks, rather than 'safe' parks. The whole point of the Award is "to officially recognise good practice in tackling anti-social behaviour and increasing safety in London’s parks". It's not just a standard to meet, we're told, but also "a measure and acknowledgement of improvement".
If your park is already safe, forget it. This award's only for parks where people currently get the willies. And I have to say, I can't think of one. Maybe that's because I'm a forty-something male and unlikely to be scared by a tree-lined open space. Maybe that's because I've been fortunate enough not to be the victim of crime, violence or anti-social behaviour in a public place. Or maybe that's because parks aren't inherently frightening, unless you're the sort of person who worries about everything and might therefore see these awards as some form of comfort blanket.
But let's assume you live close to a genuine Park of Fear. What do you do? Well, first you'll need Boris's questionnaire. This seeks to collect your views, and those of the surrounding neighbourhood, to determine precisely how nightmarish your local park might be. All proceeds smoothly until question 7... Thinking about safety, for what reasons, if any, do you feel unsafe in the parks or green spaces in your local area? There are twenty possible multiple choice answers, ranging from Teenagers hanging around to Gun crime via People sleeping rough or begging. Only at number 19 do we get the option I do not feel unsafe in my local park. Same on question 8... Which, if any, of the following would make you feel safer when using your local parks and green spaces? The entire questionnaire appears slanted towards assuming you probably do find parks a bit scary. And maybe you do, but surely most Londoners don't?
Should you want to start up an action group, which is all very Big Society, that'd be great. First pick a greenspace to champion (Boris has provided a handy map, which includes someridiculouslytinypatchesof grass which aren't really parks at all). You can't go it alone, there has to be some local partnership involved. You have to register online and fill in a big form by the end of January. Your application can only move forward if it's been supported by the local authority strategic lead for anti-social behaviour or your borough's Community Safety Manager. And you have to submit documentary evidence of safety-related performance data ("ie levels and community perception of crime and anti-social behaviour in the park") else you're going nowhere. It'll help, obviously, if your survey data shows mass local panic, because that'll be easier to improve upon later. Lost interest in applying yet?
And then next March you might hear that you've been successful, be that a Bronze, Silver or Gold Safer Parks Award. Is there a cash prize, I hear you ask? Er, no, just a plaque, and a certificate, and a logo to use on websites, letterheads and publicity materials for a 12 month period. Will that do?
Your reward is in making your local park appear less frightening, and all without spending a penny of taxpayers' cash. Ideal if you'd like to help Boris look as if he's doing something, whereas in fact you'd be doing it for him. Scary, isn't it?