Wapping residents and police meeting – report

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.

Audience at St. George’s Town Hall

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.

Introducing OWL

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.

OWL System – Sign Up today!

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.


Mayor of Tower Hamlets and Wapping resident John Biggs gives his views

Three things to remember

Sue reminded us all of three points to remember at the end of the meeting.

  1. Tell the police what is going on either using the phone, online, using OWL or Crimestoppers.
  2. Sign up to the new OWL system
  3. 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.

LW Comment

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.

  1. People were impressed by the police attitude but it seems Wapping is not a priority compared to other parts of Tower Hamlets
  2. Many said they considered the council response to be useless (We are being polite).
  3. 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.

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8 thoughts on “Wapping residents and police meeting – report

  1. I agree that it seems the council, police etc are trying to manage 21st century society with 20th century approaches and there’s clearly a lack of a well co-ordinated effort to positively improve the current position, particularly in regards to speeding and anti-social behaviour.

    I feel that we as residents of Wapping need to take some proactive steps towards reducing speeding and associated asb in the area – in order to keep Wapping safe and pleasant for all. As a result, I have created a new WhatsApp group (Safer Wapping) which I invite you all to join and invite others to join.


    Conscious that a large portion of attendees on Thursday night were of an older demographic and there were very few people who I know personally, it would be great to get support of people on here to actively share the link and encourage other people to join (I appreciate not everyone will be using WhatsApp but it is one of the best 21st century tools available for group co-ordination).

    As a collective group of residents we are much more influential than we are individually, both in relation to dealing with Police and the Council but also in relation to taking proactive steps to discouraging unpleasant practices in the Wapping area.

    As soon as we can get the group numbers up, the intention is to organise a Wapping residents meeting where we can discuss the highest priority problem areas and start implementing steps to reduce the issues.

    I have a few ideas about steps that we as residents can take but welcome any and all contributions from other members of the Wapping community.

    1. Well done Tim! Sorry havent seen this before, been a bit busy. I might publish this as a post in its own right to get maximum coverage.

  2. Thanks for the article I was not able to attend.

    Can I please ask was the issue of leveraging the River Police’s resources raised / addressed at the Meeting. I have previously raised this with the local Police Officers for Wapping directly (both by phone and email) and indeed raised it with the Met Borough Commander via our Local Assembly Member (Unmesh Desai). No action has come of that, but I was assured the comment was passed on.

    As I have raised with the above directly I find it frankly ridiculous that (especially in the summer months) I regularly see “low level” drug taking and dealing (as well as general ASB) in Wapping Rose Garden’s which is a clear line of sight and barely 20 metres from the River Police Station and their very expensive and numerous Police Cars , Police Vans and assorted equipment.

    The local Police officer I spoke with in December 2016 noted the River Police had once before given significant (3-4 officers) resourcing in an “emergency”, but she stated she had no authority to get a more formalised approach to levering the River Police’s substantial resources.

    I note even asking them to go the slightly longer route via Wapping Rose Gardens to get their coffee’s , lunch and pastries instead of the Brewhouse Lane (short cut), would deter criminality in that park. Since they wear full uniforms.

    1. Thanks for your email. No, the issue of using the Marine Unit resources was not raised at the meeting. However I do know from personal experience that the Marine Unit’s land patrols (“Viking”) has often directly dealt with crime in Wapping and that the Marine Unit officers are very much aware of what is going on. They are a part of our community as much as anyone else.

      The Marine Unit have already have been of direct help with the current problems – not everything that the police do is published on Love Wapping for various reasons.

      I think we have to remember that the Marine Unit is a resource for the whole of London (and often other UK counties) and they do a significant amount of other work related to anti-terrorism patrols and searching confined spaces. Although it is tempting to think we can just borrow them as and when I don’t think this would be best for everyone.

      Additionally I am certain that if we did not have the Marine Unit officers walking around Wapping getting their pies for lunch and driving marked vehicles around the crime situation would be much, much worse than it is.

  3. Not sure what people are expecting from the council. Speeding cars, ASB, drug dealing and taking are surely police issues. The Council are under huge pressure on funding, do we really think they’re going to spend what they do have on problems like these? Wapping isn’t a poor area – maybe we should have an extra Wapping tax to fund speed cameras/bumps – maybe even a Wapping Sheriff’s Department? I’d pay for it.

    1. Disagree with you Tony. The Council has a key role to play in terms of ensuring all the different organisations work together. The ‘responses’ from both formal representatives from the Council last night were pitiful in their complete misunderstanding of the situation and inadequate responses to residents concerns to the point where they and those responsible for managing might want to consider their ability to do their jobs.

      Parts of Wapping are not poor, parts of Wapping are as poor as other parts of the borough. All parts of the borough pay their community charge and income tax and this should not be used to subsidise crime prevention in other parts of the borough to the extent that Wapping seems at times to be ignored.

      Last night we were all introduced to six officers as ‘the SNT team’. Reality is that Wapping only has one PC and one (very capable) PCSO allocated to it. Not six officers.

      When someone is killed – which many people attending last night believe is just a matter of time as do I – then the Council will take part of the blame. We would be the first to acknowledge the mess the Council was left by the previous administration and the unjust savagery of the cuts forced upon them, but it still has a statutory duty which it needs to fulfil.

      As Councillor Dockerill pointed out there seems to be a complete lack of ‘joined up thinking’ between the Council and the police and until last night residents voices were unheard. If the cuts and other problems are preventing the Council and police from doing their jobs in the normal way maybe we all need to start thinking of radical approaches that are smart and agile? I do wonder if we are still trying to manage a 21st century society with 20th century approaches and tools.

  4. Does anyone seriously think that Licenced Premises are contributing to the problems we have in Wapping? Seriously??

    1. In St Kaths it seems to be an issue and needs to be addressed as with all other issues raised last night.

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