At least three female residents walking their dogs in Wapping Gardens, Green Bank, were threatened with violence by a gang of youths on Tuesday for no other reason than being in the park.
On Wednesday morning the footpath next to the One O’Clock Club in the Gardens was littered with hundreds of discarded laughing gas (Nitrous Oxide or NO2) canisters in one of the worst cases of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) related littering Love Wapping has seen in the last five years.
The threats of violence and the extent of the littering seem to indicate a new level of criminal behaviour which threatens to turn our green spaces into no-go zones for law-abiding residents.
LW has spoken to two of the women involved but will not be identifying them for their own safety.
Resident A said she was walking her dog in Wapping Gardens late in the afternoon on Tuesday when a group of between eight and ten Bangladeshi youths, all aged between 14-16 years old, started to abuse her.
“I will cut the legs off your dog”
According to witnesses the group had a large brown cardboard box containing smaller boxes of Nitrous Oxide canisters commonly referred to as ‘creamers’ because of their correct use in the catering trade.
“I will cut the legs off your dog,” was one of the first unprovoked threats made by one of the group according to Resident A.
“I will make you suck my d**k” was the next insult to be shouted at Resident A swiftly followed by a promise by one of the youths to “Make you my bitch”.
Identical abuse was suffered by Resident B who was also walking her dog. LW understands that another female dog walker was also subjected to similar insults when she suggested the youths cleaned up the mess they were creating.
Several residents called the police who responded but, according to the residents, the only action they took was to confiscate the large box of Nitrous Oxide canisters and move the youths on.
The group returned to Wapping Gardens as soon as the police officers had left.
What the group of youths did next was revealed on Wednesday morning by the huge amount of discarded silver Nitrous Oxide canisters that littered the benches and footpath next to the One O’Clock Club mixed in with used balloons (used to inhale the laughing gas), empty drugs bags, take-away food cartons, soft drinks bottle (containing as much alcohol as soft drinks) and other rubbish that carpeted the area.
People walking along the path reacted with horror at the desecration of Wapping Gardens, stopping and looking at the mess in disbelief.
“I have lived in Wapping for 54 years and this is the worse I have ever seen the park,” said one angry female resident LW talked to.
After reporting the situation to the council cleaning team Wapping residents spent some time sweeping hundreds of gas canisters off the footpath, picking up the litter and placing it in a large black rubbish bag.
Within a couple of hours the entire contents of the rubbish bag was deliberately emptied onto the park benches by persons unknown – no prizes for guessing who this might be.
Late on Wednesday afternoon the same group of youths returned to the same area of Wapping Gardens. It is not believed the group are local to Wapping.
Due to the threats of violence made against residents by the youths the previous day and the sheer scale of the ASB the police were called via 999 at approximately 17.10 hours.
Due to the reduced numbers of police officers available due to austerity cuts and a violent incident in Bethnal Green it was not until approximately 17.40 hours that two police officers attended Wapping Gardens by which time the suspects were long gone.
The officers spoke to LW and gave us the usual advice to always ring the police when ASB is encountered. (We would emphasise the always part.)
The photographs on this page do not come close to showing the real extent of the mess left by the group of youths in Wapping Gardens.
The details of the threats of violence made against our friends and neighbours do not come close to reflecting the fear caused by these thugs.
Some will undoubtedly criticise LW for describing the youths as being Bangladeshi. Well they were – deal with it. If the group consisted of a mixture of ethnicities or were white or Somali or Chinese of West Indian we would describe them as such.
ASB is a problem. Not a Bangladeshi problem.
The problem is that some residents see a group of Bangladeshi youths and see this type of ASB as being a Bangladeshi problem. It is not. The reality is that there are few if any groups of white (or Somali or Chinese or West Indian) youths to be seen wandering the streets of Wapping. This is just a reflection of the ethnic makeup of our community. If there were groups of bored white youths hanging around they too would be indulging in ASB.
Unfortunately because of this incorrect perception the unchecked ASB that has been rife across the borough for years risks becoming an issue of race, despite the fact that our Bangladeshi friends and neighbours are as much a victim of ASB as anyone else.
Tower Hamlets council makes much of its ‘Nitrous Oxide – no laughing matter campaign’ which has been running for some time now.
For residents across Tower Hamlets the reality is that the Labour administrations inability to tackle ASB is no joke.
In Wapping Cllr. Abdal Ullah was elected to serve the residents of our ward with a key promise being that he and the Labour Party could tackle ASB.
On May 7th Cllr. Ullah tweeted that it was ‘time to get to work’ and that he had ‘An action plan in the making’.
Action plan. What action plan?
I am proud we ran an inclusive campaign with support from all sections of our community. I have the privilege to represent #wapping and its time to get to work. @MayorJohnBiggs & I went for a walk about around @WappingLondon. An action plan in the making. #SaferWapping pic.twitter.com/RCFT1OONUR
— Abdal Ullah (@AbdalUllah) May 7, 2018
Quite why he or any other councillor needs even more time to come up with a plan is unclear to LW.
Residents of St Katharine’s and Wapping ward are still waiting for him to make good – or even attempt to make good – on the promises he made during the election.
As in getting anything meaningful done. Not another PR walkabout in the park with someone he considers to be important.
Three months later – still no plan
Morning walk about with a senior director of @TowerHamletsNow to inspect the mess from last night “gathering” in #wapping. Requested urgent clean up of our parks. Also putting plans to address issues
In our neighbouhood.#WarddayWednesday #WeareWapping pic.twitter.com/lbwemuIZTp
— Abdal Ullah (@AbdalUllah) August 22, 2018
(Note: this was not a ‘gathering’ it was ASB.)
By pure chance Resident A who was threatened by a group of thugs in Wapping Gardens on Tuesday voted for Cllr. Ullah in the May elections.
She was not impressed by Cllr. Ullah’s inability to deliver on his election promises way before Tuesday’s incident. Her opinion of him now is not publishable here and she regrets how she voted.
Reality is that all across Tower Hamlets the Labour administration of Mayor John Biggs has abjectly failed to tackle Anti-Social Behaviour.
This translates into our precious green spaces like Wapping Gardens being turned into no-go areas for residents who just want to walk their dogs or enjoy the sun or play with their kids.
Fear of crime in Wapping has risen considerably in the last couple of years and many, especially women, have been afraid to walk our streets for some time. The recent stabbing in Green Bank shows that this fear is not unfounded.
Now those same women are afraid to walk their dogs in broad daylight.
The walkabout tweet above by Cllr. Ullah was posted at 10.45 am on Wednesday.
By pure chance LW had a meeting at the Turks Head Cafe at 11 am. This was slightly delayed while we took some initial photographs of the mess in Wapping Gardens.
After our meeting ended at midday LW joined other residents and got stuck in (we estimate for the eighth time in three days) and tried to tidy up the mess until the area could be properly cleaned.
LW and other residents were still present in Wapping Gardens later in the afternoon when the ASB thugs returned and as a group waited on Green Bank as we called the police and waited for them to arrive.
At around six pm Wapping residents and Tower Hamlets police had done all we could and went home.
At no point during those six hours did we see Cllr. Ullah.
Maybe he was busy making plans to tackle ASB.
No doubt the Labour administration will roll out the usual platitudes in response to this post, but we guarantee one of many questions will still remain unanswered.
How can spending £1m on the Raines House ‘community centre’ refurbishment be justified when this money is desperately needed to tackle ASB across the borough? Or maybe even just in Wapping?
The Mayor can find a million quid for a refurbishment that few people want and of course find even more money to increase the allowances for his own team.
Funds to tackle ASB do exist – the Labour council chooses not to spend it properly.