Street robbery ‘foiled’ as undercover police swarm Limehouse to tackle crime wave
- Credit: Andrew Wood
Undercover police patrolling the streets of Limehouse claim to have foiled a robbery outside a packed public meeting being addressed by the Met’s Tower Hamlets Borough Commander.
The incident was one of a spate of street robberies police say are being carried out by a gang of youths—the youngest aged about 12.
The meeting called by the Limehouse Community Forum at St Anne’s parish church was in response to public demands for police action.
They got action with 16 undercover officers out on the streets on Monday night while Chief Supt Sue Williams faced grilling questions from 400 residents.
Three youths were arrested during the incident when police said a woman was being robbed, the meeting was told by Acting Det Insp Mike Stubbins.
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A suspected gang of youths aged 12 to 20 have been linked to 35 street robberies since October, he revealed.
Their targets were mainly white men aged up to 60, stealing cash and mobile phones in Narrow Street, Ropemakers Field and the Limehouse Basin where there are no permanent CCTV security cameras.
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Better street lighting and temporary mobile cameras are planned, Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs promised the meeting.
“People are alarmed at the sudden wave of street robberies in Limehouse since October,” the mayor told the East London Advertiser. “They rightly gave us a grilling and demanded action.
“Limehouse has always been a ‘low crime’ area, but the sudden spike in street robberies has caused anxiety, with a particular group targeting single men.”
The local authority is funding 39 more police officers to increase street patrols.
But there were concerns at the meeting that Limehouse was the only district ward in the East End without any permanent CCTV cameras, which councillors believe the street gangs have cottoned on to.
The council faces a tough debate at the town hall on January 17 from Opposition members who are calling for a re-think of where cameras are located.
Cllr Andrew Wood, who was at the public meeting, said: “Limehouse has been hit by a sudden wave of street robberies which has got so bad that people are advised against walking home from the station at night, but take a cab instead.”
Police came under fire over the lack of response or long delays reporting incidents when dialling the non-emergency 101.
Delays were caused by operators being switched to the emergency 999 call system in the busy evening period when police response system was “short staffed”, Borough Commander Williams revealed.
Limehouse Forum vice-chair Helen Kenney told the Advertiser: “You get no response or you wait 20 minutes when you dial 101.
“Anti-social behaviour should have been addressed earlier—it’s now getting out of control. We need zero tolerance.”
The 90-minute meeting had a heavyweight list of political figures in the audience who included Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick, turning up direct from the House of Commons, two councillors who are rival candidates challenging John Biggs in May’s election for mayor, Rabina Khan and Ohid Ahmed, and several councillors across the political spectrum.
A proposed exclusion zone is soon to be thrown up around at Ropemakers Field, Narrow Street and the Limehouse Basin, the meeting heard. That would give police powers to arrest groups of more than two congregating or at least boot them out of the neighbourhood.