Urgent meeting called by MP Dawn Butler to tackle ‘crisis-level’ street crime in Harlesden

Dawn Butler at Harlesden crime meeting

Dawn Butler at Harlesden crime meeting - Credit: Archant

“The situation in Harlesden is at crisis level...What we’re asking for is to walk the streets in safety.”

Harlesden crime meeting residents quiz police and MP

Harlesden crime meeting residents quiz police and MP - Credit: Archant

Ian Britton’s comments directed at Acting Chief Inspector Rob Webb summed up feelings about escalating street crime at a Harlesden Anti-Social Behaviour Meeting on Friday night.

Held in the common room of Christ Church Nursery School in Harlesden and chaired by Brent Central MP Dawn Butler, about 100 people attended showing the strength of feeling.

Ms Butler called the urgent meeting in response to escalating anti-social and criminal behaviour in the area to explore ways to tackle the crisis. The meeting brought together the Met Police, community safety managers from Brent Council and local business owners and residents.

Those in attendance expressed their frustration with the persistent problem of drug dealing, noisy street drinking and prostitution in Harlesden, particularly around Park Parade, Redfern Road and Roundwood Park.

Harlesden crime meeting residents quiz police and MP

Harlesden crime meeting residents quiz police and MP - Credit: Archant

“The situation in Harlesden is at crisis level. It’s the smaller things that affect everybody, like urinating in the streets. What we need is more police visibility and something to break the cycle,” said Ian Britton.

“What we’re asking for is to walk the streets in safety.”

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There has been a 25 per cent rise in anti-social activitiy and violence and sexual offences in Harlesden in the past year, according to latest Met Police crime figures.

One of the main complaints was about long police waiting times and the perception police are not doing enough to protect local businesses and homeowners.

Acting chief inspector Rob Webb at Harlesden crime meeting

Acting chief inspector Rob Webb at Harlesden crime meeting - Credit: Archant

Darwin Ramlal runs an estate agent on Park Parade.

He said: “Where are the police? If you were around more, doing your basic duties, we wouldn’t have these problems. We’d feel more safe.

“It’s like the Wild West around here. I was born here and I’ve never seen it this bad.”

Khyali Shinwari, who runs Master Kebab on Park Parade, said: “We call you guys and there’s no response. We reported more than 20 times that guys are in the front of our shop smoking and selling drugs, but when I point them out, all we hear is ‘there’s nothing we can do’. So who do we go to to report these issues?”

In early May his grill chef at Master Kebab was assaulted at the back of the shop. He had a gun held to his head and his right hand was seriously injured as his attacker wielded a “sharp knife”.

“It’s 50/50 if his fingers will work again,” Khyali added, highlighting the severity of violence affecting the community.

Acting Chief Inspector Rob Webb said: “Our resources are split quite thinly but sometimes we don’t do enough to demonstrate to you that we’re tackling the smaller stuff that still impacts your lives, and for that I can only apologise.

“The challenge that we face in Harlesden is that we’re contracting financially and as a result of austerity cuts we have to prioritise our resources. I don’t have an unlimited number of officers, I’d love to, but policing at the moment is the art of the impossible.”

The meeting was called following the completion of Operation Hope, a six-week initiative to tackle drug dealing and related crime in the area. Between February 5 and March 18, 55 people were arrested or issued with penalty charges, 31 street searches for weapons were conducted, during which 10 knives, a metal bar and drugs were seized, as well as £25,000 in cash.

Act Ch Insp Webb added: “We have something called Operation Hope Two, which is an ongoing commitment to put an additional four officers onto the streets of Harlesden to go out patrolling.

“But Harlesden is a big place – we are not everywhere at once. I’ve always pushed for officers to come down here every day to try make a difference.”

CCTV vehicles will patrol from 6pm to 11pm for the next 14 weeks.

Ms Butler asked for people to inform the police about suspicious addresses.

She said: “I was receiving lots of emails about the escalating violence in Harlesden. I pass through Harlesden and I see what happens all the time. We had our first meeting in December and that’s how Operation Hope came in, we started working closely with the police and we saw some improvements.

“The summer months are when crime starts to escalate as there are more people on the streets. So I’m glad to hear that there are plans for Operation Hope Two. We need additional resources, policing and money spent on infrastructure in Harlesden and Brent. Our community is our strength and I believe that. We do so much with so little and we are working hard to make Harlesden safer.”