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
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
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.
__________________________________________________________________________ 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.
At the Columbia Tenants and Residents Annual General Meeting on Monday 9 September 2019 the outgoing Committee delivered their report of the year.
In it the Chair, Kevin McKenna outlined the key areas the CTRA has focussed on this year:
1.Dealing with things that make living here more difficult:
ASB – trying to reduce the amount of drug dealing on local streets and the disruption this causes in our blocks
The new building on Baroness Road and the major works renovations to several of our blocks – Making sure resident’s concerns are listened to by THH, the council and the building contractors
Problems related to the market and local social establishments – Loud busking, outdoor drinking being too noisy late in the evening, into the night.
Filming on the estates – trying to reduce the problems caused by too much disruptive filming happening on our estates
2. Supporting things that make living here better
Estate improvements (“curtilage” works) – making
sure that residents opinions on these are taken on board
Improving our green spaces with community
Enabling community social events
Forming links with other community groups – so
that we can have an even bigger impact
The Chair went on to say, “The CTRA covers nearly 1000 homes. The CTRA can only achieve the things you all ask of us through collective action. One neighbour volunteering an hour our two every month or so, all adds up to a huge potential contribution to the quality of life of everyone who lives in the area. Please continue to volunteer and please encourage more of your neighbours to come and be part of all we do.”
Vice Chair, Penny Creed commented that “It has been a busy year!”.
The Columbia TRA has been hearing reports that some residents have been experiencing quality issues with new front doors installed by Tower Hamlets Homes and/or their contractors as part of major works programmes. So that we can gain a clear understanding of the scale issue we request that residents contact us with a short outline of any problems they have encountered with their new door. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The date of the CTRA AGM has been confirmed as Monday 9th September 2019 in the eveing. Residents will have the opportunity to elected/re-elect officers at the meeting as well as set priorities for the year. It is therefore important that as many residents from our estates attend as possible.
The exact time and venue will be confirmed in due course.
The Mayor has highlighted the role residents have played in
providing information that led to officers storming 19 addresses in Tower
Hamlets, Hackney and Havering and 15 arrests on suspicion of supplying class A
drugs. The raids specifically targeted dealers who target the Weavers Ward.
Major John Biggs said: “Residents have worked with us to
identify where people are peddling drugs, and their insight has delivered
“We will continue to use our collective powers to enforce
against people dealing drugs and to keep our streets safe. This was another
excellent result for the borough.”
DCI Mike Hamer, Tower Hamlets Crime, Gangs and Drugs lead,
said: “The public can continue to play a very effective role in helping the
Weavers Community Action Group representative Jonathan Moberly said: “This is a really positive step towards tackling a problem that adversely affects Weavers’ residents daily. It is great to see the police and community’s hard work is bearing fruit and we urge local residents affected by drug dealing on the streets to get in touch to find out how they can get involved”.
This story was reported
in the East London Advertiser on 14 February 2019 and can be read in full here.
Gareth Furby, BBC reporter and documentarian has spent time with CTRA residents and members of the Weavers Community Action Group (WCAG) to understand the impact of open drug dealing on our streets for a film piece on BBC’s Inside Out London (aired 14/01/19).
Filmed in late 2018, the piece shows footage of drug deals in progress and highlights work the WCAG has done to draw attention to the problem and organise crowd-sourced evidence gathering for police and other agencies. The film also shows what other Tower Hamlets residents in Wapping are doing to combat ASB in their area.
In recent years, British Telecom and its affiliates have been replacing the traditional red phone boxes on our streets with InLink kiosks. These phone kiosks give users free short phone calls and several have been installed on Bethnal Green Road alone. Sadly, however it has been obvious to local residents that drug users and dealers have been using these free calls to coordinate deals and drug drops. This has been backed up by police investigative work.
For some time, the Weavers Community Action Group (WCAG), local police and council have been campaigning for British Telecom to stop these free calls and this week we had some good news. InLink has confirmed that, following suggestions from the council and police, from December 6th 2018 it will no longer be possible to make free phone calls to mobile phones from all of the InLinks in Tower Hamlets.
We see this as a positive step towards tackling the issue however, it should be noted that this is only a trial by BT and WCAG’s recent campaign to halt the plan to move the phone box from Hackney Road to Ravenscroft Street has so far been rejected. There is still much to do.