Crackdown continues on drug crime in Leyton

Police and council officials have vowed to continue their crackdown on drug crime in Leyton.

Waltham Forest Council saw a fivefold increase in drug-related crime last summer, which it says represents a disproportionate rise compared to similar boroughs in London.

Meanwhile, there has been a 60 per cent increase in ‘acquisitive’ crime like theft and robbery, the council’s community safety director Daniel Greaves said during a virtual forum on Monday evening (March 18).

He described it as a “blight” on the community and said he “can only imagine how it feels to have this happening on your street”.

Leyton residents were quoted during the hour-long meeting saying that areas such as High Road had been left to “deteriorate” and that open drug use was becoming more and more “blatant”.

During a questions-and-answers segment, some residents spoke of drug dealers selling from their cars and said they were suspicious of new shops opening that appeared to always be closed or never serve customers.

Others said that police visibility remained very low, except for when Leyton Orient FC were playing at the Gaughan Group Stadium in Brisbane Road.

Rob Skingle, an inspector with Metropolitan Police, said the police’s response to crime in Leyton had been “unprecedented”.

On top of increasing patrols and visibility, a total of 71 ‘key offenders’ have been arrested and a further 101 issued anti-social behaviour (ASB) and community protection warnings since September 2023.

The morning following the meeting, two men in Leyton were arrested on suspicion of drug offences and a firearm was allegedly seized from a property in the E11 postcode.

Jason Niblett, a detective inspector with Metropolitan Police, said the arrests would only continue.

He said: “Going forward, there will be lots more arrests and more people being convicted.”

Though he couldn’t speak about any specific operations, he said the force was “not planning on stopping”.

The force has also closed six houses associated with drug-related ASB, according to figures published on March 1.

Sixty additional ‘enforcement actions’ taken were against those found violating closure orders, which can prohibit people from entering a particular property for up to three months.

Leyton and Wanstead MP John Cryer said the drug issues Leyton faced were “very, very serious”.

He said: “I remember going around local schools, play groups and businesses talking to residents and it has not been embroidered at all.”

He warned that drug offences tended to peak in the warmer months and said local authorities must be ready.

Additionally, he has written to the Home Office to ask how Leyton can receive its share of a new £66million fund, set up in February to stamp out antisocial behaviour in communities.

Despite the considerable spike, Waltham Forest Council says there is no “clear cut” explanation as to why drug offences have risen.

Daniel Greaves pointed to three possible reasons: the recent emergence of highly addictive synthetic opiates similar to heroin; drug-dealing gangs being able to expand their “footprints” in the borough as a result; and ‘environmental’ factors such as CCTV blackspots and overgrown areas.

Shrubbery can provide cover for deals and drug use, the council says, and teams will be out in places like Sidmouth Park cutting hedges and trees back, while three new CCTV cameras have been installed near known hotspots.

The safety director added that some issues had become “entrenched” and would require a “sustained effort” over time.

Social workers have also attempted to tackle the issue, conducting 198 outreach visits to hotspots, speaking with 256 drug users, and handing out 22 ‘overdose prevention’ naxolone kits since September.

Going forward, Waltham Forest’s cabinet member for community safety, Khevyn Limbajee, stressed the importance of residents reporting incidents to both the council and police.

Inspector Niblett added the force has “really listened” to residents in recent weeks.

He said: “People know and they tell us. We go away and use what they’ve told us to try and disrupt drug supplies.”

He added: “Antisocial behaviour drags the area down.

“Reducing ASB will make Leyton a better place to live and work, and that in itself will deter people.”

Residents can report incidents to the council as well as to the neighbourhood policing teams.

They can make anonymous reports via CrimeStoppers, and are asked to call 999 in an emergency.


Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter