In response to numerous complaints about continuing ASB of all sorts in Wapping our MP Jim Fitzpatrick asked residents to email him with their concerns and he then took this up with the MPS. Below is the text of the letter in response to Jim from Acting Police Sergeant (APS) Sarah Khan of the Wapping & SKD Safer Neighbourhoods Team (SNT).
Dear Mr Jim Fitzpatrick,
Thank you for raising this issue with us. Wapping Safer Neighbourhoods Team are aware that the residents of Wapping have consistently identified their primary concern to be speeding and anti-social driving.
More recently, residents have also drawn our attention to nitrous oxide use, which is becoming increasingly common across the borough.
Below, I have detailed some statistics around the prevalence of these issues in Wapping. I have then gone on to detail the actions we have taken to tackle anti-social driving and nitrous oxide. Finally, I have listed the actions we will be taking over the next few months.
Statistics: Speeding/Anti-social driving
In January 2017, there were 23 road traffic accidents in Wapping ward. To compare, I have drawn data from two nearby wards. Limehouse ward had 8 traffic accidents in total and Shadwell ward had 35 road traffic collisions in total. We are currently liaising with Traffic in regards to more specific locations to obtain more information about the incidents where these are occurring.
Statistics: Nitrous Oxide Use
It is difficult to quantify rates of nitrous oxide use, because often residents’ calls to 101 regarding this issue are categorised as general anti-social behaviour. However, the Wapping Safer Neighbourhoods Team have had 9 amounts of reports referred to us from 101 calls that feature nitrous oxide use.
Current Actions: Speeding/Anti-social driving
- Traffic operation: In response to residents’ complaints, we have drawn the attention of the Safer Transport Department to this area, and have requested that they conduct a traffic operation in the area. They ran an operation there in mid-December 2016.
Increase in Traffic Units: We have been working in partnership with Traffic command who regularly patrol Wapping, looking for speeding and other driving offences, deploying additional resources to the area. The West Cluster Safer Neighbourhood Inspector, Natasha Walker and Sergeant Khan, has asked Traffic Units to increase their presence there. Sergeant Khan is currently in contact with Inspector Francis and Sergeant Bentley from the traffic unit.
Local patrols: We target local patrols according to residents’ reports so that we can identify offenders at the scene.We often employ high visibility patrols to deter offenders. Currently Wapping SNT have problem solving plans for the following areas:
- Vehicle nuisance that covers the Wapping location.
- ASB and Vehicle nuisance in Kennet Street and Hermitage memorial Gardens
- Rough sleepers in Eluna apartments.
- Public Space Protection Order: The Safer Neighbourhoods Team are in the process of applying for a Public Space Protection Order for Hermitage Memorial Gardens. The conditions are being negotiated, but these Orders give police and council enforcement officers the power to disperse anyone from the area for 48 hours.
5. Seizures: We also pursue vehicle seizures where appropriate. If residents can identify a vehicle by observing its registration plate and its make, model and colour, and are willing to give us a signed statement describing its anti-social driving, police can place a Section 59 warning on the car.
If a vehicle receives two warnings in a 12 month period, it is seized. We find vehicle seizure a strong deterrent to offenders and we try to will publicise seizures once completed to further deter other anti-social drivers.
- Warnings: When the vehicle can be identified, we also send out warning letters to the registered keepers and named insurance policy holders of vehicles. Approximately 30 warning letters have been sent in a three month period. In cases of persistent offenders, a home visit may be conducted. We will also conduct checks and inform their insurance holder if we uncover any discrepancies (for example, false details to lower insurance rates).
Current Actions: Nitrous Oxide use
Current legislation makes the use of nitrous oxide very difficult for the police to enforce.
Possession of nitrous oxide is legal. There are strategies we use to pursue users of nitrous oxide.
- Seizure: Nitrous oxide can be seized by police if the individual possessing it is under 18.
- Fines: Officers issue fines for littering if they are on scene and they observe nitrous oxide canisters being left on the street.
- Anti-social behaviour warnings: Police can also hand out anti-social behaviour warnings, which are collated by us and sent to housing officers so that persistent offenders may have their tenancy revoked.
- Night patrols: The Tower Hamlets ASB bus covers the borough on Fridays and Saturdays 1700-0300 and on Sundays 1500-0000. They visit Wapping every night they are on duty, to patrol for ASB and respond to ASB calls from local residents.
- Working with partners: We can direct Tower Hamlets Enforcement Officers to hotspots, who can also issue these fines and warnings
However, beyond this, we cannot enforce its use. For this reason, Shadwell and Wapping Safer Neighbourhoods Teams have concentrated our efforts on tackling the illegitimate supply of nitrous oxide. The supply of nitrous oxide is legal, but only with certain conditions. It is not to be sold to those under 18, and the customer must have a legitimate use for it, e.g. for culinary preparation. We do have intelligence of a few commercial premises in Shadwell that are supplying these canisters illegally.
- Pursuing closures: We are planning joint operations with Trading Standards to tackle this, and are aiming to have these commercial premises shut down.
- Pursuing convictions: We will also pursue convictions where appropriate.
Wapping SNT will coordinate a public meeting, attended by the borough commander, Sue Williams, to address the concerns of Wapping residents. Wapping SNT will plan further traffic operations, with the support of other units, with the aim of identifying and deterring offenders, and the seizure of vehicles. This may include the use of unmarked cars.
We will also work with the council to assess the environmental factors that are encouraging speeding in Wapping, and put in place traffic calming measures, such as speed bumps.
APS Sarah Khan 911HT
All good stuff from our SNT and thanks to Jim for asking questions on our behalf. One query we do have about this response is the way to tackle the nitrous oxide / laughing gas problem. It may be legal to use it but if someone sits at the steering wheel of a parked car and inhales 50 canisters of the stuff in 60 minutes then immediately drives that vehicle is that person not driving under the influence of drugs?
We don’t know, anyone who does know the law on this issue please tell us!