By Ellie Fry and Sam Corner
Police have refused to confirm promises by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets to increase the number of council funded police officers in response to residents concerns about anti-social behaviour.
John Biggs, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets told angry residents at a Mayor’s Q&A meeting in Shoreditch on Tuesday that the council would almost double the number of council funded police officers from 20 to 39 following complaints about anti-social behaviour. However, the Metropolitan Police have cautioned that the application has yet to be confirmed.
The local authority currently fund 20 police officers for the borough, six of whom are charged with tackling anti-social behaviour such as drug misuse, prostitution and vandalism. Biggs repeated assurances in a council press release last month that the officers would be recruited; out of the 39, 14 would deal with crime on estates and 25 would work across the borough.
However, contrary to Bigg’s promise, Superintendent Peter Turner, the borough commander for Tower Hamlets, told East London Lines: “Locally I would like to have additional staff, but the Metropolitan Police will decide whether to confirm the local authorities decision to fund 39 police officers. There is a small potential that the funding will not be accepted.”
At the Q&A residents expressed outrage at the lack of progress being made with drug related anti-social behaviour and were desperate for answers.
Sergeant David Deal, one of the Tower Hamlets officers, said: “When we arrest low level drug dealers, the same line of drug dealing happens again, I’m certain of that. You’ve got to understand that substantial evidence is needed by the Crown Prosecution Service to charge them.”
There were over 5,000 anti-social behaviour cases reported in Tower Hamlets between October 2016 to September 2017.
Spencer Brown, of Columbia Road, in Bethnal Green, told the meeting: “We’ve had two incidents in my building with drug users in the last 24 hours. I called 101 at 3pm, 999 at 8pm last night many times, and nobody came. I ended up fending them off myself, at 8 o’clock this morning, I was an hour late for work.
“There was graffiti everywhere, the caretakers took photographs, there was urine dripping from the 19th floor down to the ground floor. A resident on the 18th floor told me that she’s frightened and she couldn’t sleep.”
Pressing concerns were shared by the residents over the vulnerability of children and the elderly who live with anti-social behaviour every day.
A local woman who wanted to remain anonymous said: “There are children watching drug dealers passing off the drugs and this is affecting the mental health of people in this borough. People are stressed, they’re anxious, they are not happy and it’s affecting their work.
“I love where I live, I love this area, I don’t want to be anywhere else. I have cried so much in the past couple of years over the drug dealing, and the council’s failure to do something.”
Mayoral Advisor on Anti-Social Behaviour, John Pierce, responded: “This is a clear message to the Mayor and the police that things need to be done.”
Jeremy Freedman, a photographer from Spitalfields, expressed how anti-social behaviour is affecting local spaces. He said: “It’s the same people every single day defecating, causing violence, drug dealing, drug using, in some cases 30 metres from school gates at 08:00.”
“95 percent of the money for parks and open space has been spent in two areas, Mile End Park and Victoria Park. While Allen Gardens, where my neighbours and I have been punctured by needles, has had none.”
Mayoral Advisor on Anti-Social Behaviour, John Pierce, responded: “This is a clear message to the Mayor and the police that things need to be done.” Biggs added: “You have every right to enjoy peace and safety in your homes. It’s not going to happen overnight but we are going to give it resources.”
In a press release issued last month, Biggs said: “Community safety is an absolute priority. I want to make sure we keep police officers on the streets delivering neighbourhood policing that stops crime and deals with the issues facing residents.”
“The Government might think cutting police budgets is acceptable but we do not. Tower Hamlets is committed to working with and investing in the police to protect residents.”
Twitter: @iEllieFry @SamCorner6