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Drug dealers and canister sniffers flouting Coronavirus lockdown say troubled Stepney families

PUBLISHED: 17:57 31 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:58 31 March 2020

Nitrousoxide cannisters litter the streets of Stepney where youths get their kicks. Picture: Mike Brooke

Nitrousoxide cannisters litter the streets of Stepney where youths get their kicks. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Drug dealers and nitrousoxide sniffers have taken advantage of the Coronavirus lockdown and are disturbing families in Stepney at night while the authorities’ backs are turned, say neighbours.

Arbour Square... littered with nitrousoxide canisters and take-away rubbish dumped by drug users. Picture: Friends of Arbour SqArbour Square... littered with nitrousoxide canisters and take-away rubbish dumped by drug users. Picture: Friends of Arbour Sq

It follows a decision by Tower Hamlets Council to leave open the gates at Arbour Square Gardens to save staff having to trek out each evening with the keys to lock up.

But the result is youths using the gardens at night to deal drugs and use nitro cannisters for kicks which they then dump in the street.

The families have taken it up with the mayor and the council’s anti-social unit, calling for a CCTV camera to be installed, similar to demands in Whitechapel two years ago when a petition was presented to the council by campaigners for CCTV in the Cannon Street Road area, citing streets littered with cannisters.

They want such measures in Arbour Square Gardens.

Nitrousoxide cannisters litter the streets of Stepney where youths get their kicks. Picture: Mike BrookeNitrousoxide cannisters litter the streets of Stepney where youths get their kicks. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Normally the gardens are locked after dark,” one resident, Christopher Scull, said. “This was to stop them being used for drug abuse, drug-dealing and anti-social behaviour after dark.

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“Perhaps someone can explain why the decision has been taken to suspend the lockup!”

The reason the families have been given by the council is “special measures for coronavirus”.

But they “find it difficult” to see how locking and unlocking gates exposes council staff to risk, while leaving them unlocked is “turning Arbour Square into a hotspot for drugs”, they fear.

Father-of-three Ian Eccles-Smith told the East London Advertiser: “You can set your watch by the drug-dealing. “You can see the cars and the exchange of drugs every night at 7pm. A camera would spot four or five deals every day.

“We can’t walk down our street. We get threats that they‘ll stab us if we ask them to stop running their car engines.”

He insisted: “We don’t need bobbies on the beat—just a camera to clean up this neighbourhood so my kids can go out on the streets again.”

Now Friends of Arbour Square have approached New City College which has a campus overlooking the gardens and have been in talks with the mayor. But council budgets are stretched, ironically made worse by the Covid 19 emergency.

The Advertiser has approached the town hall over the situation and understands that the mayor has been in touch with the families.


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