With pubs and nightclubs closed and household mixing restricted to tackle coronavirus, drug users have been travelling to illegal premises to buy and take drugs in groups hidden from public view.
A 24-strong police officer raid on a 200-year old historic building, formerly home to a school and youth services in Whitechapel, in the early hours of this morning (Friday 12 Feb) revealed a nightclub style cannabis café.
In a joint operation with police, Tower Hamlets Homes (THH) followed up on a tip off from a resident in neighbouring THH-managed Chicksand Estate. Residents had been concerned about frequent late night visitors and associated Covid risks of groups congregating.
In a targeted operation, police officers from THH Homes’ dedicated police team were joined by Met Police Officers and were able to raid the premises and arrested a person who appeared to be in charge and was also found in possession of a section 5 firearm. A quantity of drugs and drug paraphernalia were seized, and a closure notice on the premises issued.
Whilst at the premises, a group of six male café customers entered the premises, found the police there and attempted to run away. One male was issued with a Covid fine, after telling police that he was “From Barking and just here to chill with my mates”.
Officers from Tower Hamlets Homes, the police, and mounted police officers, will be carrying out patrols across Tower Hamlets Homes managed estates today (Friday 12 Feb) as a visible reassurance to residents.
Susmita Sen, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Homes said:
“Coronavirus has made things tougher for all of us, but we won’t allow residents on our estates to be subject not just to anti-social behaviour, but also Covid risks. We will continue to work with our partners on operations like this and crack down on those who disregard the law.”
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:
“We know that our residents are concerned about drug dealing and taking, which is why we conduct these partnership operations. I want all residents to be assured that despite lockdown restrictions, we will continue to target individuals committing crimes in our borough”
Superintendent Andy Port added:
“I hope this demonstrates that we will not tolerate illegal activity like this blighting the lives of the local community. Local high visibility patrols will be taking place across the affected areas following this arrest and officers will be engaging with residents and businesses to answer any questions and provide reassurances. My officers will continue to patrol the borough to enforce the Covid legislation where necessary.”