Tackling Drug-Related ASB – A Community Art Approach

A year ago today, Weavers Community Action Group (WCAG) commissioned street art by the Columbia Road Cartel. It appeared on the streets around Columbia Road E2 where open drug dealing had escalated to unprecedented levels

The street art was the local community’s answer to what had been a lacklustre response by local agencies to an issue that was affecting daily lives. Fast cars driven by drug dealers were putting pedestrians at risk and residents felt intimidated by users congregating in numbers on local streets. Petty crime was increasing.

To the WCAG’s surprise the artwork received widespread media attention with coverage in local, national and even international press and broadcast media outlets. Members of the WCAG were invited to appear on local radio, London news programmes and national programmes such as The One Show, Inside Out London and BBC Politics Live.

Highlighting the issue brought agencies and local residents together and a great deal of work followed:

  • Members of WCAG joined the local Safer Neighbourhood Panel and were elected as vice-chairs
  • The WCAG was invited to meetings with local Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs and senior police officers to discuss the issue
  • The London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ Neighbourhood Management Pilot, launched in April 2017, planned their approach in part consultation with WCAG
  • The WCAG visited the local CCTV office and identified ways to streamline reporting of drug dealing so that it could be captured on local cameras and agencies could be dispatched to the scene more quickly
  • The local council worked with the WCAG to put a case forward to BT to remove the free mobile call feature in local InLink boxes that were being used to arrange drug deals locally
  • A police operation, supported by WCAG’s co-ordinated local reporting resulted in over 100 arrests. Impact statements by WCAG members were used to inform resulting sentencing
  • WCAG members met with residents’ groups from other parts of the Borough and housing associations to share best practice

One year later, thanks to the subsequent response of local agencies and hard work of the WCAG the situation in Columbia Road has greatly improved. Incidents of drug dealing on our streets have fallen. Of course it is not ruled out that street dealing has moved to another location and living so close to Shoreditch and its growing night time economy brings new ASB challenges. The WCAG continues to work with agencies to monitor drug dealing on our streets and reduce the incidents and effects of anti-social behaviour on our community.  

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The Weavers Community Action Group (WCAG) is made up of local residents, representatives of residents’ groups and business owners living and working in the Weavers Ward who are concerned with the escalating problem of drug dealing, use and drug-related anti-social behaviour on our streets and in or near our homes. As this is an important issue for local residents, the CTRA has taken an active role within the WCAG since its creation in April 2018.

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