The excellent turn-out for last night’s meeting with the police to discuss ASB and speeding cars and frequent crashes in Wapping was a clear indication of the level of concern felt by residents about these issues. Approximately 120 people attended St. George’s Town Hall in Cable Street so it was standing room only for some, despite excellent work by chair monitors.
Cllr. Julia Dockerill and borough commander Chief Superintendent Sue Williams led the meeting which was also attended by at least eight other police officers, Cllr. Denise Jones, Deputy Mayor Shiria Khatun, Tony Gowen (Enforcement Manager, Tower Hamlets Council) and last by no means least Mayor John Biggs.
As ever this is not a detailed record of the meeting, the aim is just to give those people who could not attend a flavour of the event.
Main policing priorities for Tower Hamlets
Sue Williams started off by giving an outline of her views and priorities for policing in the borough, her two main priorities are to reduce non-domestic abuse and violence and reduce burglary.
These aims have to be seen in conjunction with the Police and Crime Plan for all of London created by the snappily titled Mayors Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) which can be found here. That’s Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, not the Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs.
The Commander then introduced the Safer Neighbourhood Team and described a new initiative for residents to report crime via the new MPS website which you can find here.
Options like 101 or 999 are of course still available.
Residents were also urged to join the Safer Neighbour Ward Police Panel for Wapping and St. Katherine’s Dock. The basic idea of a Ward Police Panel is a that a group of residents meet with their local Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) on a regular basis to decide on policing priorities.
LW has been a member of our Ward Panel for some time and although it is useful the meetings have been somewhat irregular. Fixing this and recruiting more people is a key way to tackling the crime issues we have.
The best way to volunteer for the Ward Panel is by making use of the new OWL system that is a sort of online Neighbourhood Watch. After you have signed up OWL sends you the latest local crime alerts and provides management tools for maintaining and expanding watches. You can also then send an email to our SNT volunteering to be on the Ward Panel.
Leaflets for OWL were handed out at the end of the meeting and LW will try and get our hands on some to distribute locally.
The reason Sue Williams was promoting the Ward Panel and OWL was that the police need us to be their eyes and ears. Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) in London, most of the ASB being fuelled by illegal drug use.
The Chief Inspector took over and talked more about ASB and ask for any questions. Brave man. Here are some highlights.
- Sue Hughes from St. Katharine’s Dock brought up the issue of licensing regulation. Sue pointed out that there are currently 26 alcohol licences just in the Dock area with another application being considered.
- One resident from the south-east of the Ward (Shadwell Basin?) brought up the issue of large groups of people in her area congregating whenever the felt like it, 3pm in the afternoon being cited as an example, to take drugs and litter the area with NO2 (laughing gas) cannisters.
- Another resident talked of being missed by only an inch by a speeding car in the Cannon Street area.
- Speeding cars were brought up by many residents, with some long-term residents saying they had recently seen a significant increase.
- Another question from the front was simply “How can we help the police?”
- LW questioned the wisdom of having six officers manning a speed trap during the afternoon when none seemed to be out and about in the afternoons or at night when the really dangerous drivers were on the loose.
- There were various calls for traffic calming measures, a pedestrian crossing in Garnett Street and speed cameras.
- It was pointed out that Wapping is still an island with only four ways in and out and maybe speed cameras could be set up there?
- Many others seemed enthusiastic for speed cameras but it was pointed out that speed cameras cost a lot of money.
- Tony Gowen (Enforcement Manager, Tower Hamlets Council) responded to some of these points. He said that there had been a recent survey of the roads in Wapping by council and traffic officers – news to us. Seemingly no need to engage residents with this? His other point seemed to be that Wapping was not going to get much, if anything, compared to the rest of the borough. Cheers Tony.
- The bad news is that this survey “did not generate enough data” to justify traffic calming. LW has no idea what this means. Anyone else?
- Some suggested that it will only be when someone is killed that there will ‘be enough data’ for something to be done.
- Cllr. Shiria Khatun, Deputy Mayor for Community Affairs & Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, made a statement which was both naive and irrelevant and was met with jeering by residents.
- In complete contrast Mayor Biggs, both in charge of Tower Hamlets and Wapping resident, made a few remarks which seemed to be the most commonsense that was talked all evening. He suggested that maybe the speed camera option could be looked at, possible temporary devices?
- One thing that caught the ears of LW was Mayor Biggs saying that elsewhere in the borough there had been “axle cracker” speed bumps installed which would trash the axle of any vehicle doing over 50mph. That’s what we need!
- Towards the end Sue Williams reminded the meeting that “she could not flood Wapping with police officers”. Fair point, but residents are not asking for a flood of officers, just a trickle would do.
Three things to remember
Sue reminded us all of three points to remember at the end of the meeting.
- Tell the police what is going on either using the phone, online, using OWL or Crimestoppers.
- Sign up to the new OWL system
- Volunteer for the Ward panel.
She concluded by saying that “it was refreshing to see so many people turning out in Wapping.”
Julia Dockerill summed up by saying that it seemed that there was “a lack of joined up thinking” between the police and the council.
Amazing turnout by residents. Full engagement by a significant number of borough police officers. A great exchange of views with no fist fights in the audience (it has happened…).
LW has spoken to a good many residents after the meeting and three common themes have emerged.
- People were impressed by the police attitude but it seems Wapping is not a priority compared to other parts of Tower Hamlets
- Many said they considered the council response to be useless (We are being polite).
- Will anything really change?
Our view is that the problem we have is a failure of communication. We all want the same thing, safer streets. We all – council. police, residents, business people – want to work together. But instead of having good ways to just talk to each other we have things like the 101 system which are more of a problem than a solution.
If 20 people in Wapping see some sort of speeding or ASB taking place how many make a successful call to 101? 5 out of 20? 1 out of 20? No-one knows. Anecdotal evidence shows that there is little faith in the 101 system and residents are just resigned to criminals going unpunished.
The new way to report crimes online is a good approach as is the new OWL system and we urge you to make use of both and tell us how you get on. But our experience of trying to contact our SNT team is not good. Dialling the number after being frustrated by 101 often just means going straight to a recorded message with no option to leave a message.
LW has seen that in other wards in the borough the local SNT clearly state to not bother with 101 but to ring the SNT directly.
Could we not all just forget the tasking strategies, ward priorities, strategic assessments, local partnership alliances and hotspots data for a while?
Let’s just get a basic phone number sorted and work our way up from there.