Major progress has been made in recent months to disrupt the activities of drug dealers and reduce the overall amount of drug use in Tower Hamlets, according to a new council report.
Under ‘Operation Continuum’ 131 people have been charged with a total of 245 drug supply charges, £891,000 in cash has been seized and 175 properties have been raided in the period between January 2017 and September 2019.
Speaking exclusively to Eastlondonlines, Detective Chief Inspector Mike Hamer, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “Continuum is here to stay… We have found that through better information sharing, joint planning and delivery of operations, we have been able to achieve so much more.”
‘Operation Continuum’ is a partnership between Tower Hamlets Council and the Metropolitan Police designed to target the trade of Class A and Class B drugs in the borough. As part of the operation, Tower Hamlets Police use the council’s CCTV network and personnel to track suspicious vehicles and monitor locations at which street deals routinely take place.
In recent months, the operation’s strategy has revolved around the use of anti-social behaviour legislation and vehicle insurance checks to stop and search cars used by drug dealers. In the period from January to September 2019, 37 vehicles were seized in connection with the supply of drugs. This was a significant increase from the 19 vehicles seized in the preceding 24 months.
Operation Continuum was launched in 2017 in response to reports of rising drug use in the area. Tower Hamlets is estimated to have one of the highest numbers of Class A drug users in London, a concerning statistic given the well documented link between violent crime and the supply of drugs.
However, some experts have cautioned against an approach that sees drug abuse solely in terms of crime and punishment. Harry Shapiro, director of DrugWise, an independent provider of information on drugs, said: “Even the police would acknowledge that this is a problem which can’t simply be dealt with in terms of enforcement, particularly when it comes to social and economically deprived areas like Tower Hamlets.”
A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “Drug dealing is an issue that impacts communities across the country, including here in our borough. We recognise the devastating impact that it can have not only on addicts, but also on ordinary people trying to go about their daily lives.
“Operation Continuum – our partnership approach on this issue – has seen significant numbers of dealers taken off the streets, with some receiving lengthy custodial sentences.”
“But we recognise that arrests are only one part of the solution which is why we are also working hard to support those struggling with addiction, helping them to escape the cycle they are in and to cope with the physical and mental health challenges that drug use presents.”
According to the council’s most recent estimate, there are a total of 2,798 regular users of opiates and crack cocaine in Tower Hamlets.