Ilford ‘still in top five criminal hotspots’ says Inspector warning of new gang threat

Ilford Station.

Ilford Station. - Credit: Archant

What started out as a turf war between two drug gangs vying for control of Ilford town centre became an undercover sting by police that saw 11 dealers jailed.

And now police officers believe the status quo in the town centre can not be allowed to return to how it was.

A recent crackdown by the British Transport Police (BTP) – dubbed Operation Parish – saw 11 members of an Albanian and Afghan drugs ring sent to prison in March.

And yet there is still a problem.

At last week’s meeting of the council’s external scrutiny panel, officers revealed that, while crime was falling in the town centre, the continued presence of a Somalian gang was ringing alarm bells.

In fact, one of the key pieces of evidence in the trial of the Albanian and Afghan dealers had been a photograph of a mass brawl outside Ilford station involving Somalian teenagers.

The lead prosecutor in the case even argued that what had been caught on film was none other than a turf war, as dealers from both gangs sought to claim Ilford’s prime drug dealing location.

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BTP Insp John Loveless stressed that the Albanian gang’s convictions shouldn’t let either the police or the residents become complacent.

“The reality is that even with these crime reductions, Ilford station is still in my top five criminal hotspots,” he told the meeting.

“So although we don’t have the resources to constantly commit heavy policing to the area we won’t be taking our eye off it.”

Likewise, Met Sgt Lee Wilkinson admitted his team had been working hard to ensure the Somalian gang in the town centre does not suddenly capitalise on a lack of competition.

“We couldn’t allow someone to fill that gap overnight so that a new generation of criminality would seep in,” he said, while explaining why police patrols were stepped up throughout the town centre late last year.

Further precautions have also been taken to prevent drug deals and other anti-social behaviour from setting up in betting shops.

BetWatch, a scheme between police and bookmakers to cut crime in their premises, is now live in the borough.