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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.

“It has been a busy year!” – Your Outgoing CTRA Committee’s Annual Report

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 gardening projects
  • 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!”.

Read the full report here.

New Front Doors

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 vicechair@columbiatra.org.uk

Community managed gardens blooming

Columbia TRA have taken over the management of a number of flower beds from Tower Hamlets Homes in the last year and you may have noticed the difference in colour around our estates.

Beds around Sivill House, Chambord Street and George Loveless House have already benefited from the hard work of our volunteer community gardeners.

As we take on more beds, we will be looking for more residents to help plant and maintain them either on a regular or ad hoc basis. Email gardening@columbiatra.org.uk to register your interest.

Chambord Street. July 2019
Sivill House, July 2019

Mayor John Biggs highlights role Weavers community has played as police drug raids lead to 15 arrests

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 dividends.

“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 police”.

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.  

Read our Winter Newsletter

CTRA’s latest newsletter is out now. Read news about our estates and about recent activity led by the CTRA Committee and other local residents such as:

  • Spring bulb planting on our estates
  • Recent work of the Weavers Community Action Group (WCAG) on drug-related antisocial behavour
  • New bike storage on our estates and how to rent a secure locker
  • Plans for our children and youth football training club
  • Major works and the Baroness Road Development and how the Committee can support you
  • Christmas on the CTRA Community Cart
  • A THH planned estates outdoor tidy up

To receive this and future newsletters to your inbox, sign up to our mailing list.

CTRA residents feature in BBC Inside Out film on drug-related ASB

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.

The film is available here to view in full.

Deck the CTRA Community Cart!

The CTRA Community Cart probably had its final outing of the year this week as volunteers from the Cart Steering Committee festooned it with tinsel and wheeled it down to Columbia Road for the first of this year’s Christmas Wednesdays.

Locals and passers-by were plied with hot mulled apple juice, mince pies and an opportunity to chat to residents as carol singers sang around the Christmas tree.

We’re starting to feel a little festive now!

The Cart Steering Committee is currently planning activities for Spring 2019 onward, if you would like to get involved by bringing ideas, DIY skills and/or perhaps support at some of our events, please do get in touch by emailing Jenny Dunn.