Yes, you read that headline correctly. An organised crime gang has allegedly been running a prostitution operation in Green Bank Wapping for many months but according to MPS Tower Hamlets there will be no immediate action because the alleged prostitutes and their alleged minders are not causing any Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB).
Welcome to policing Tower Hamlets style.
From our investigations and personal experience what seems to be happening is that the crime gang provide clients with phone numbers for sex services then park in either Green Bank or Tench Street (the other side of the park) with a minder for each woman. One vehicle has also been seen in Wapping High Street outside Dundee Court.
They wait until such time as they get a call from a client then the minder drives his charge to her appointment.
In the photograph above you can see (from left to right) red, yellow, blue and green vehicles then a darker blue vehicle behind. A minder and his charge stand on the pavement chatting. Other women and minders remain in the vehicles.
According to local sources the alleged prostitutes are mainly hired by clients who live in the more expensive properties along the Wapping riverside or one particular residential location inland. The precise address of this has been given to us but at the moment we have decided not to publish it.
On a number of times in the last few months while walking along Green Bank at around 21.00 hrs or later LW has noticed groups of two or three cars parked up opposite the church.
These vehicles always had at least two occupants, never just a driver, and usually one male and one female or two males and two females. Some but not all of the cars had Romanian registration plates (the ‘RO’ symbol).
The women were around early twenties in age and could best be described as quite attractive, smartly dressed as if just about to go out on a date that evening and often very busy doing their make-up.
The same two or three males, of East European appearance, would usually be standing on the junction of Green Bank and Dundee Street having a chat in addition to other males sitting in the cars.
Just a social thing?
LW thought this behaviour was a little unusual and considered reporting it but did not as we thought that they were maybe waiting to go to work somewhere or it was a social thing.
At one point LW did think it might be prostitution but dismissed this as our over-active imaginations. And to be honest it was such a cliched idea and so out of character for Wapping we thought no more of it until Wednesday evening.
Many other Wapping residents have had the same reaction.
Seven cars for seven women
On Wednesday 29th March 2017 at around 21.30 hrs LW was walking down Green Bank from the Turks Head Cafe towards Dundee Street and saw no less than seven cars, all saloons, parked up. These vehicles had a mixture of Romanian and UK number plates. For reasons of personal safety we could only get two registrations which were passed to the police.
All these vehicles fitted the previous pattern of all having at least two occupants, seemingly pairs of men and women. The same men, presumably the minders, stood on the street talking and smoking.
The vehicles were there for at least two hours and we saw one drive off and talk to occupants of one of the other vehicles before leaving. None of the vehicles were very flashy but all fairly recent models, none would look out of place parked up in a quite road in E1W.
Not even talking loudly
Again it felt that all the people in all the seven vehicles had the same common purpose but it was difficult to work out what it might be. They were not making a mess, they were not obstructing the pavement or the road, they were not even talking loudly. A check this morning revealed nothing more than a couple of empty cigarette packets on the road.
Hardly ASB is it?
Those in the cars were not causing any nuisance, the men were playing video games on their phones, the women either adjusting their makeup or just looking plain bored.
Many residents will have walked passed these people and paid them no attention at all because as individuals they look so completely and utterly normal. It is only when they are considered as a group that it looks slightly odd.
Thursday morning LW was talking to a resident who lives in Dundee Street and asked about these vehicles and was told the following:
“The women in the vehicles are Romanian prostitutes with their minders. They park up either in Green Bank or the opposite side of the park (Tench Street leading to Watts Street) and wait for calls from their clients who are typically in one of the more expensive properties along the river in Wapping or inland.”
Their minders drive them to their appointments and presumably drive them back. My source told me this based on their own observations and those of a relative.
LW briefly mentioned this to another Green Bank resident who said that the same evening she had seen a young woman who fitted the description of the type of ladies described above standing outside Parry House on the pavement in daylight at around 17.30 hrs seemingly waiting for someone or waiting to be collected.
Modern day slavery is still slavery
We have no way of knowing if the women are working consensually or they are being forced to work in this way. It seems that many young women are lured to the UK with the promise of a great job and on arrival are imprisoned, their passports removed and forced to work as prostitutes. This is slavery.
On the morning of Thursday 30th March LW sent a detailed email to both our Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) and to Cllr. Denise Jones and Cllr. Julia Dockerill. Denise Jones’ reaction is below.
LW also tried on three separate occasions to report this incident via the 101 service and three times we gave up.
We eventually rang the Wapping SNT mobile number and gave the headline details to a PC and that we had also sent them a detailed email. The response was, and possibly we were misunderstood, that they would have a look at the prostitution issue “in a few weeks” along with other issues.
On Thursday evening the same events unfolded in Green Bank. Between 18.00 hrs in the evening until 00.40 hours Friday morning up to five different vehicles, some of them the same ones seen the previous night, were parked up in Green Bank. Each contained a male and a young female. At various times different vehicles drove off and returned.
“It’s pretty tame here”
LW has talked to a variety of local residents to inform them of what is happening and gauge their reactions. For obvious reasons we are not identifying any of these residents by name.
“I like the fact that these women have a minder, it is safer for them,” said one mother. “My concern is what sort of people are living in Wapping who would want to use these women? At the end of the day we live in central London, it’s pretty tame here.”
Another mother took a less tolerant view.
“It’s not that I don’t like this profession being visible, I am afraid for my teenage daughter, she walks along Green Bank every day on the way home from school.”
“I have seen groups of up to ten people, five women and five men, just sitting at the park entrance at around 10.15 at night completely unworried. I honestly thought they were having a party. They obviously felt safe here because there is no way the police will be passing by.”
“I am more shocked than anything,” said another mother. “This is not the sort of thing you expect to happen in Wapping. This is right in the middle of our community with a children’s playground on one side of the road and the church on the other side.”
“These people should be placed under surveillance by the police and stopped,” she continued.
It’s the become the norm
Ronald Bello, owner of the Turks Head Cafe at 1 Green Bank, was taken aback when LW told him what was happening just along the road from his popular cafe.
“People sitting in cars in Green Bank has become a bit of a norm because we are all so used to the people in cars with their gas canisters,” said Ronald.
Reaction from Cllr. Denise Jones
“Any unusual behaviour, whether from groups or individuals should be investigated quickly by the appropriate authorities especially where there could be a safety issue to residents or the women involved. I’ve been informed by the police that neither the victim not the perpetrators of the incident in Wapping Lane last Friday evening were from the local area. But it’s better to prevent possible trouble by checking anything out of the ordinary spotted by local people.”
Cllr. Denise Jones (Labour, St. Katharines’ and Wapping)
Denise informed LW that she had formally raised this issue with the Council’s ASB team and the Tower Hamlets Borough Commander, Sue Williams. Cllr. Julia Dockerill has informed us she is engaging with the Mayor on this.
On Thursday we tried on three different occasions to get through to the MPS via the 101 number and on each occasion gave up after spending 10 minutes on hold.
Our phone call to the SNT as mentioned above gave little confidence and no action.
Yesterday (Thursday) when it was clear that the same thing was happening once again at around 21.00 we rang 101 once again and stuck with it. Eventually we got through and spoke to an extremely professional operator who listened as we described what had happened the previous day and what has then and there as we watched.
As far as we were aware there was no police response last night but MPS Tower Hamlets did ring us for a chat before we published.
It would seem that because the alleged prostitutes are not soliciting in the street and they are not indulging in any ASB then they will be pretty much left alone. The whole ‘organised’ bit seems of little if any consequence.
LW pointed out that it seemed to us that there is a big difference from one car parked up with an alleged prostitute sitting in it with her alleged minder and seven cars doing the same thing. Seven cars in a row. With the occupants of all seven cars obviously knowing each other. Getting out of one car to hop into another car for a chat.
Bottom line is that what is happening in Green Bank will continue until such time as the vehicles occupants get careless with their empty crisp packets.
It was also pointed out to LW that unless residents report ASB via 101 then there will be no official report so no response. And no official statistics to warrant a future change in policing patterns.
The problem with this is that, as many residents can testify, it is almost impossible to report anything in a reasonable time via the police 101 number. But unless there are reports then…. You see what we mean?
Even better there seems little if any action on ASB that is reported.
If it is proven that an organised crime gang is running a prostitution operation in Wapping then this is as a direct result of allowing others to indulge in ASB in our streets with no sanction.
First we have courting couples – some having sex – parking up in quiet Wapping side streets. Then we have other young people, who presumably still live with their parents, parking up and smoking cannabis.Next we have people parked up in cars taking cocaine outside the entrance to the John Orwell Sports Centre in broad daylight.
Next we have others inhaling numerous canisters of Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) in their cars and dumping sometimes hundreds of those nasty little silver things in our streets for the rest of us to clean up. And then others feel safe to use the streets as a race track to demonstrate their skill at dangerous driving, quite often while inhaling laughing gas.
All this establishes Wapping as a place where you can come to and do whatever you like with zero risk of being either caught or punished.
It should be no surprise then that an organised crime gang raises the stakes higher and operates a prostitution racket for many months in our streets with complete freedom.
Irrespective of their nationality an organised crime gang is a very sinister entity. Organised crime profits from prostitution and drugs dealing (big league, not the trivial street corner deals) and have no hesitation in using violence on a whim.
Now it seems we have organised crime using Wapping as a nice safe place for them to provide the services of prostitutes to the more affluent members of our community and unless they start littering the streets they will remain undisturbed.
Tomorrow these professional gangsters may decide to use the streets of our community for another venture. Let us hope that when they do that the start of their new business will not be announced by the exchange of gunfire or the discovery of bodies in our streets.
And let us not forget that it seems these prostitutes are being used by local people. Wapping residents. Without their demand there would be no supply. One approach to solving this would be to identify to which locations in Wapping these women are being delivered to and suggest that their concierge services might want to pay a little more attention to the types of visitors some residents entertain.
It is a safe assumption that one of the reasons we have this problem in Green Bank is because the police simply do not have enough police officers.
Or maybe it is that the police officers do exist but Borough priorities for policing are wrong?
This very lunch time we saw police activity in Wapping Lane. Which joins Green Bank. Here is a tweet from @MPSWapping.
All good stuff. Speed checks making the streets safe (until dark when the real speeders appear).
Guess how many Tower Hamlets police officers and PCSO’s it took to undertake this speed check? Hint: Not just the one in the photograph.
Six. At times seven.
We know because we counted them all. Just as we counted the seven vehicles in Green Bank the night before last and the five last night.
For more information
- ASB reduction top priority for Tower Hamlet’s new top cop
- St Katharine’s and Wapping Safer Neighbourhood Team (Metropolitan Police)
- Police criticised as organised gangs gain control of sex industry (Guardian)
- Criminal gang behind prostitution network dismantled by Romania and the United Kingdom (Europol)
- Romanian vice ring smashed as cops snare trafficking suspect during flat raids (Daily Record)