Crackdown on drugs crime in Leyton

More than 70 people have been arrested as part of a major crackdown on drug crime in Leyton.

There has been a “strong response” to Waltham Forest Council’s aggressive new strategy, according to the authority’s cabinet member for community safety, Khevyn Limbajee.

Addressing a full council meeting on Thursday April 25, he said the number of incidents in the area had decreased and calls to Metropolitan Police were down by 80 per cent since September 2023.

On top of the 71 arrests, 101 antisocial behaviour (ASB) warnings have been handed out, seven premises associated with drugs were closed, and four search warrants had been executed.

The joint strategy between the council and the Met began last year, after a fivefold increase in drug-related offences and ASB during the summer.

Cllr Limbajee told the council that the teams “recognised how much concern there was” from residents and were “determined to make sure [crime] wasn’t displaced”.

He summarised the groups’ priorities as reducing supply, preventing use, and promoting recovery.

Officers held a virtual forum in mid-March to address their issue, where they heard from residents who said open drug use had become more “blatant”.

They were quoted as saying that areas such as High Road had been left to “deteriorate” and that police exposure was low, except during Leyton Orient FC matches.

John Cryer, the MP for Leyton and Wanstead, said the issues facing Leyton 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.”

The Labour MP warned that drug offences tended to peak in the warmer months and said local authorities must be ready ahead of the summer.

Alongside measures taken against offenders, Waltham Forest has also installed five new CCTV cameras in known drug hotspots and carried out 350 outreach patrols, which has seen 32 drug users enter treatment.

During the March meeting, the council’s community safety director, Daniel Greaves, said there was no “clear cut” explanation as to why drug offences had risen so sharply.

He 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.

Workers have since cut back hedgerows and “tidied the environment,” Cllr Limbajee said, after residents raised concerns that criminals were hiding in bushes.

As the crackdown continues, 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