It is no longer safe to walk the streets of Wapping at night. That is a fact.
It is also a fact that all the candidates of all the parties, both mayoral and local, make much of how they will tackle Anti-Social Behaviour and crime across the borough.
Wapping residents crime & ASB meeting
Here are some quotes from Wapping residents at a meeting with police and councillors to discuss crime in Wapping.
- “We want to know what you are doing now, not next year.”
- “We don’t see councillors until there is a local election on.”
- “Why is it obvious to us that the bushes [in Wapping Woods] need trimming and we need better lighting and not obvious to you?”
- “There are gangs of youths in every green space in Wapping, drinking, smashing bottles.”
- “Not everyone uses the Internet so cant check police websites for information”
- “There are junkies, peeping toms, people having sex in Wapping Woods and what happens when you ring up? Nothing!”
- “We need to make Wapping Woods more family friendly.”
- “This problem is not just about Wapping Woods, it is all of Wapping.”
- “If citizens can’t patrol the area can covert police do it?”
All valid remarks.
All remarks which were made in 2013.
Yep. Five years ago. (The problem is Wapping is not a problem January 8th 2013)
What have the politicians been doing?
Which begs the question what have politicians of the two administrations in power the last five years (Tower Hamlets First, now Aspire, and currently Labour) have been doing?
Not much would seem to be the logical answer.
The police are still fighting an uphill battle despite the savage cuts they have suffered under the guise of the Conservative ‘austerity’ policy.
Which is at least gives the police a genuine reason why the streets of Wapping are no longer safe. (Unless of course you run one of the prostitution rackets which switch between Green Bank and Pennington Street and have your own minders).
What excuses do the politicians have?
The Conservative candidate for mayor Dr Anwara Ali MBE has none. In her manifesto she states that “only a Conservative Mayor supported by Conservative Councillors working with a Conservative Government can address the longstanding problems of overdevelopment, crime and ASB and shortage of social housing.”
Less police officers = more crime
This is at best nonsense, at worst hypocrisy. The problems with crime and ASB are directly linked to the cuts in police numbers by the Conservative government which Dr Ali presumably supports.
We could not find any reference to policies to fight crime in the Aspire manifesto (but then we couldn’t find the Aspire manifesto). This should come as no surprise as the Lutfur Rahman Tower Hamlets First administration 2010-2014 is still the subject of the Met’s Operation Lynemouth, a huge investigation into any criminal activity that happened during Lutfur Rahman’s time in power with Ohid Ahmed as his deputy mayor.
Not the natural party of law and order
It does seem that the Aspire party is going to create 1,000 new car parking spaces in the borough (where?) and plant 1,000 new trees too. Maybe the car parking spaces are in the trees?
But we digress. Safe to say that Aspire is not the natural party of law and order in Tower Hamlets.
Which brings us to the third main party, Labour. Mayor Biggs and his team have now had three years in power to start getting things changed for the better but it is hard to find any voter who can see any sign of this. Indeed ask Wapping residents when crime has risen most and they will say in the last three years.
We know ‘cos we ask them and not just before an election.
The streets of Wapping are no longer safe
One good friend of Wapping no longer walks her dog at night because she does not feel safe even with a very protective dog at her side.
She, like many others, does not feel that safe in broad daylight either, especially in the summer, because of the very real risk of being mown down by a thug driving his car at speed with no regard for anyone.
Another friend of Wapping works all over London during the day and returns home at all hours. She does not feel safe walking from her car to her front door in Wapping High Street. Recently she needed to go to Tower Bridge after dark, a 12 minute walk from where she lives. She made the sensible decision to drive to St. Katharine’s Dock because she considered it to risky to get there on foot.
Neither of the two women referred to are wilting wallflowers, but they aren’t stupid either.
The 101 system does not work
LW has experienced numerous incidents of crime and ASB to such an extent that calls to 101 are deemed ‘frequent flyer’ by the Met Police control room. We have to confess to giving up calling 101 most of the time because the 101 system does not work. Everyone knows that.
Instead of any attempt to change a broken system we are still exhorted to dial 101 when we see ASB. Wapping residents, like us, do not do ‘the right thing’ most of the time because it is, to be blunt, pointless.
If it’s broke let’s fix it
So why not change the way ASB is reported in the borough? And while we are at it change the way it is dealt with?
Tower Hamlets needs radical change. It seems to stumble along from one crisis to the next with the only policy of whoever is in power (if not in control) to cross their fingers and hope that everything is fine.
LW has only been reporting on communities and politicians that supposedly represent them for five years. In that time we have seen nothing change apart from the previous mayor being kicked out of power. And that would not have happened without the work of borough residents.
No simple choices for voters
It would be nice and neat to conclude with a recommendation to vote for Party A, B or C that could offer a clear path towards a better future for every resident.
But we cannot do that. And our opinion is no more valid than that of anyone else anyway.
Local democracy in Tower Hamlets is still moribund – at the point of death. As this recent LW comment piece showed that young members of the Bangladeshi community with fresh ideas, views and the energy to challenge the status quo dare not speak out for fear of retribution.
This is a condemnation of all the political parties who have recently held power. They have no excuses.
So all we can do is ask you to think long and hard before you cast your vote for the next mayor and next local councillors tomorrow.
Vote for change, not more of the same
Please do not vote for the person or party you voted for last time because…well… you voted for them last time. We can all do better than that.
Think before you mark those little crosses in those little boxes and ask yourself if your vote will make change more likely?
If it does not think again.