Angry Wapping residents turned the tables on Metropolitan Police and councillors when they took control of a “reassurance” meeting held in response to concerns about public safety.
The meeting at St George’s Town Hall was held following the separate stabbings of two women in Wapping Woods, a green open space near Shadwell basin, last month.
Two women, aged 38 and 26, were both attacked in the park and suffered serious but not life threatening injuries. A man, Sijil Miah, 32 is awaiting trial on two counts of attempted murder and two counts of possession of a knife in a public place.
Police said they wanted to hear from Tower Hamlets residents about their views on public safety following number of complaints.
As police and local councillors began t0 explain the efforts to improve public safety they will be putting into action in the coming months the peaceful meeting escalated into a roar of complaints from the public.
Residents demanded to be heard first and shouted over one another to be listened to. One resident exclaimed: “I want to know if I’ll be able to walk in the area and feel safe and have my concerns heard.” As pandemonium broke out a local resident threw up his arms asking :“Who is chairing this meeting?”
Those living in the Wapping area stressed the lack of lighting and CCTV cameras on the streets. Families living by the woods said they feared the overgrowing shrubbery was a breeding ground for crime and called for a clear plan of action for secure streets throughout the borough.
After the meeting, Neil King, 33, said the residents had presented ”a united front”. He said: ”The people are concerned about what’s going on. We’ll wait and see whether or not police do anything about it.” Despite reassurances from police, many residents left saying they were still angry, calling the meeting a platform for “political rhetoric.”
Although there was agreement over the need for more police on the streets, local people said they feared that numbers would be further reduced. Over the past two years, 161 police officers have been cut in the area and the Metr0politan Police as a whole is now facing a further £300 million of cuts proposed by Mayor Boris Johnson.
“Cuts are hitting everybody. The two most recent incidents in Wapping Woods were a crime waiting to happen,” said resident Mark Baynes, 52.
Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer of Tower Hamlets police assured residents that they were making a concerted effort to add more police officers on the streets, add more CCTV cameras in criminal hot spots and address all of the residents concerns. However, being one of the” busiest boroughs for 999 calls” they had to prioritise.