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Scrap metal, brothels and leaking pipes: the first Redbridge Action Day

PUBLISHED: 11:59 11 December 2014 | UPDATED: 11:59 11 December 2014

Special enforcement day in Ilford.

Special enforcement day in Ilford.

Archant

“I thought there had been a murder,” said one resident when met with a street full of police and council officers.

Decked out in high-vis jackets, it was impossible to miss the activity in Oaklands Park Avenue in Ilford last Thursday – the first target for a new initiative cracking down on anti-social behaviour.

Redbridge Action Days – or RADs – will see enforcement officers and police joining forces to tackle issues around anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, rubbish, graffiti, street cleaning, housing and parking.

The events form part of a planned year of action, during which the council will carry out surprise sweeps of problem areas.

Cllr Ross Hatfull, cabinet member for community safety and enforcement, said the authority wanted to show residents enforcement was being taken seriously.

“This sort of joined up, very visible, in your face enforcement action is extremely important,” he said.

The RADs go alongside the setting up of the joint action group (JAG), a multi-agency meeting which looks at identifying problematic locations with long-term issues and cracking down.

Head of safer communities John Anthony said: “It should make a visible difference on the ground. It stops enforcement action being fragmented.

“It’s a problematic location. It’s come up on a number of agencies’ radars.”

He said the next target area had already been selected based on complaints from residents, with the council encouraging people to report issues they want tackled.

After being reported, issues go through a “tasking process” during which resources – such as police patrols and visits from trading standards – will be allocated.

“Most of the time that does resolve the issue but where it doesn’t we now have the joint action group,” he said.

The action days involve officers visiting residents and businesses, looking at properties, leafleting homes with advice as well as taking enforcement action.

The Redbridge Community Policing Team were on patrol to prevent any breaches of the peace.

Pc Katie Lock said: “It’s a really good initiative – it does make a change.

“I think sometimes people can just dismiss it if it’s just council.”

Mark Benbow, who joined the council last month as community safety and enforcement lead, said issues identified during RADs would be followed up by an action plan to look at how problems can be solved.

“We don’t go straight to enforcement – it’s about getting the right tone,” he said.

“If people change with a bit of advice that’s brilliant.

“It’s like the broken windows theory – if you fix the broken window, people take more responsibility for the area.

“If you tackle the small problems you don’t get the anti-social behaviour, you don’t get the crime, you don’t get the drug dealing.”

Cllr Hatfull, pictured left, added: “We are not going to turn up, wander round for a few hours and then go back to the office,”

“We want people to think twice about littering and care about our area.

“We want to renew civic pride in Redbridge.”

It’s Thursday morning, and it isn’t long before problems are identified – with private housing officers pointing out a property with damp and a dangerous drain pipe, writes Laura Burnip.

“The rain water is just going to pour down on to the road – it will be like a sheet of ice,” said one.

Street scene officers find two discarded shopping trolleys on a grassy verge – likely being used to transport scrap metal illegally.

“It’s a problem,” said one officer.

“They go through bins looking for scrap metal and sell it on without a licence.”

The street has houses and commercial properties, most of which are owned by car repair businesses.

But one officer said brothels had also been operating in the road, with police shutting down four in the street over the past year.

Owners of car repair business Wilba Coachbuilding show us their shutter door, which had been vandalised overnight – but were not keen to report the damage.

The street scene team said it could be difficult to get residents to formally report incidents.

“People don’t want to fill in a form, they don’t want to make a statement,” said one officer.

“For us to take a prosecution forward we need witness statements.”

With just eight officers, the team relies on help from residents to pursue offenders.

“We can’t do it all,” she added.

Paul Wilsher, who runs the business with Mark Taylor, said he had seen a lot of change since he started working there 30 years ago.

“There’s a lot of drunks, a lot of people sleeping rough,” he said. “This road is a nightmare.”

Mr Taylor said he had picked up human excrement from outside the workshop twice in the past six months.

Further up the road, we find Bopindir, a 55-year-old homeless man wrapped in a duvet, sheltering from the rain.

Through broken English, he says he has been on the streets for two months, and was heading to the Welcome Centre to stay for the night.

Street cleansing officers said used needles posed a threat.

“It’s rife with used condoms and needles,” said one.

Staff receive training and are equipped with a “stab kit” and needle disposal equipment, but the team said officers had been injured in the past.

“Over the past five years we’ve known two go to the hospital,” said one officer.

“One was unsure if it was a needle or a thorn but we sent them anyway.

“They were both negative.”

They said Ilford Lane had a big needle problem, with a single clean-up last month finding 34 needles and other drug paraphernalia such as burnt spoons in black bags by a bus stop.

“We go through the bags for evidence,” he said.

“Someone could be stood with their son at the stop, step on a bag and get a needle stab.”

The team of around 100 carries out a deep clean of every street in Redbridge once a week, and each town centre road daily.

Working from 6am until 10pm, they use special street-sweeping vehicles to clean roads and pavements.

In autumn, the clean-ups are done every two weeks because of falling leaves.


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