Did you know that London has four private police forces serving the city's parks? These forces don't replace the Metropolitan Police — crimes of a serious nature are always handed over to the Met. Instead, these park forces deal with smaller issues and act as a deterrent to illegal activity. But when necessary, park constables are able to use their police powers, so don't mess with them.
Hampstead Heath Constabulary
The Hampstead Heath Constabulary is perhaps the most necessary force on this list. Hampstead Heath still hasn't shaken off its reputation for cruising and dogging, so a significant proportion of the local force's work goes towards encouraging safer sexual activity and disposing of sexual litter. The Constabulary also provided support when a young man drowned in one of the Heath's famous ponds in 2015.
Despite its name, the Constabulary's power stretches much further; it has jurisdiction on all of the green spaces owned by the City of London Corporation, bar Epping Forest (which we'll get to later). However, the Heath and nearby Highgate Wood are the constables' primary beat.
Hampstead Heath Constabulary was targeted by a Freedom Of Information request in 2016, by someone attempting to discover what the force's powers and authorities are. Apparently the Constabulary is impervious to FOI requests because it's technically a charity, which led to the person who submitted the request dubbing it an "oppressive regime". Not sure we'd go that far.
Epping Forest Keepers
The job title 'Keeper' might conjure up images of park picnics and bunny rabbits (just us?), but you shouldn't take this highly trained tactical squadron lightly. They defend the forest from gangs... of foragers. That's right, the force's most recent moment in the limelight came during its crackdown on foragers illegally stealing the forest's mushroom supply. They even had stop and search powers to make sure passers by weren't concealing any valuable mushrooms about their person.
The Keepers date all the way back to the 19th century and were intended to protect the newly dubbed People's Forest — from the people themselves.
The Keepers have a friendly side too, hosting summer venison and butchery courses; going above and beyond the duties of a regular police officer.
Parks Police Service
The Parks Police Service was born out of a merger between two different boroughs' private police forces. Neighbours Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham joined their forces in 2013, to create a sort of police super group — the crime fighting version of Queen and Adam Lambert, but better.
According to the website, they patrol parks 365 days a year and their duties include dog microchipping among other things. The force is surprisingly large too, with 28 people protecting the precious parks of the posh parts of west London.
Kew Gardens isn't technically a park — rather it's a botanical garden — but the Kew Constabulary still deserves a mention on this list. It was established in the 1840s and originally consisted of Crimean War veterans and part-time gardeners. The jurisdiction originally stretched to Battersea Park, but this ended towards the end of the 20th century as the country moved away from private police forces.
London had a fair few more private police forces, usually covering all the parks within a single borough. The most recent of these to disappear was the Hillingdon Parks Patrol Service. According to the council, the service's duties were split up and given to different departments.