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Ealing residents say the situation in the Hanwell is ‘the worst it has been in 10 years’ due to drugs and anti-social behaviour

Residents of a neighbourhood in West London claim it’s riddled with drug addicts and people defecating in the street in broad daylight, with locals resorting to documenting crimes themselves in a desperate bid to see more action taken.

People living in the once peaceful Hanwell in Ealing claim it now feels unsafe as addicts and drug dealers often congregate, violence breaks out in and around local businesses, and the streets are littered with crack pipes and human waste.

While the Met Police says its officers “work tirelessly” to make the area safer and the force has launched ‘Operation Bottletop’ to tackle street drinking, some people feel Hanwell is spiralling out of control. Concerns have prompted some to take up citizen journalism to catalogue incidents, make reports to the police and petition councillors on social media. While they can do little more than raise awareness, the people behind accounts like Help For Hanwell use social media to repeatedly suggest that they have barely had any response from the council or police to the constant slew of criminality they experience on a daily basis.

As the situation in the area has continued to deteriorate action by law enforcement and the council have shown signs of becoming more proactive with ‘joint operations’ aimed at raiding known drug dens, arrests and forced evictions all taking place in recent months to help stem the tide. Despite this residents and local businesses still feel at risk with claims that many repeat offenders, including drug addicts with nowhere else to go, return to a local hostel a few weeks after the operations take place.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the two women behind Help For Hanwell, who asked to remain anonymous due to concerns for their safety, said they had become increasingly troubled by the activity they have seen in their local area.

“It used to be such a nice little community but it’s been completely forgotten about,” one of the women told LDRS. The pair say they have been recording the goings-on in Hanwell for eight years saying that the area is “the worst it has ever been in the past year, six months”.

The pair take pictures and videos of alleged criminality, drug use, and ‘drug dens’ or alleged dealing, posting them on Twitter and informing local police. However, they say that even with what they feel is hard evidence there is often a subdued response from police. After allegedly finding a woman smoking crack in a phone box in broad daylight said she “called 999 but no one attended”.

One of the women behind Help For Hanwell added: “There’s a PCSO and his name is Josh and he’s absolutely amazing. He actually communicates with me, and comes when I call him, but he’s on his own.”

The pair say they have been threatened on multiple occasions due to their activity. “I’ve had my daughter who is 9 years old have a junkie scream in her face that she was gonna kill her in her sleep.”

With threats of violence levelled against them and their family, Help For Hanwell says the reason they keep going is to bring about change. One of them said: “I have lived here 30 years and it wasn’t like this when I moved in and it’s beginning to make me feel scared to go out, because they are getting violent. We need more police presence, we need more deterrents, it shouldn’t be that the police only act when someone is being threatened with a knife or a golf club.”

Action by the council and the police including ‘Coffee with a Copper’ and the joint operations are appreciated by the women but they say the area has been “ignored” for too long, with efforts to actually fix anything often feeling politically motivated rather than an attempt at a permanent solution. “I feel like every time there is an important vote coming up or there is something politically, they are always like ‘we are here, we are gonna help, we are going to do this or that’ as soon as the votes are over there is just nothing.”

Ealing residents say the situation in the Hanwell is 'the worst it has been in 10 years' due to drugs and anti-social behaviour Harrow Online
Seating covered by plant pots by Hanwell Clocktower because it as encouraging anti-social behaviour. Permission for use by all LDRS partners. Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Help For Hanwell adds that they believe police raids aren’t working because they’re not regular enough. “Maybe [if it was] a couple of times a week, or a whole month [it might work], but one day a week for a couple of weeks and then nothing for months is not enough.”

Steve Chilcott, the Reform UK candidate and Hanwell resident echoes the pair’s concerns: “In the last 6 to 12 months it’s gotten significantly worse most time of the day, every day you will come through here and you will see drug dealing, people urinating, defecating just in the middle of the street, not even down an alleyway or anything.”

He added: “I have seen people hanging out the window openly, throwing drugs down to people on the pavement. It is that obvious. There is no attempt to hide it, it is done that brazenly, that openly. Day in, day out. There is no visible sign of any community policing in this area whatsoever.”

He is not impressed by the council’s response to residents’ concerns either, claiming: “I just think that the little bit of attention they have given now is pathetic, it’s small, and it’s late in the day. They are doing it because they have been forced to because everyone is pestering them now because it’s getting worse and worse and worse. Now they are trying to take credit for stuff residents [like Help For Hanwell] have done.”

Chris Hobbs, a former police officer who used to work in Ealing, says there is a lack of resources because local police officers are being bogged down by medical and mental health incidents instead of responding to crime. “Police are doing the job of support workers who don’t do as much out-of-hours work,” he said.

However the biggest problem, Chris says, is austerity which has seen police numbers slashed across the country.

”The number of police vehicles that they put out [on the streets] is a fraction of what it was,” he said. “I would say around six or seven, if it’s a bad day you might only have two or three, so the whole thing is falling apart, it’s completely disintegrated. Too much bureaucracy, cutbacks, it’s become very difficult to manage.”

Residents point to a specific collection of flats in the town centre as a major hotspot for drugs. It’s clear to anyone who stands near the entrance that there are a lot of people passing in and out of the building, the very same building where residents claim to have seen drugs dropped from windows onto the street.

A business owner from Hanwell, who asked not to be named, said he was worried about drug addicts congregating near his shop. “It becomes a hub of drug trafficking, drug sales, drug taking, I don’t know fully. I know there is something going on though,” he claimed.

“They walk past, many people cause trouble, especially when customers are in, they get a bit afraid. Two months ago there is one gentleman that came in and began asking for change, but we are a card-only business. So I told him we don’t have cash and he started yelling and saying ‘yeah you do, give me money’ and some customers got a bit scared.” He says the previous owner had their front windows smashed two or three times.

However, he doesn’t believe that a simple crackdown will be enough to fix the problem, saying: “The main question for me is how do we help those people because they are human beings suffering from addiction. So I think the big question for the council is ‘how are we going to help them?’ not ‘how are we going to get them out of the area?’ Because that’s not the solution. They move them here, they move them there, it’s the same result because they are going to follow their addiction.”

Hanwell Halal Butchers manager Abul Queus says that his boss has had to call the police on multiple occasions because intoxicated people attempt to sleep underneath the shop’s awnings but says he has never personally had an issue.

Another business owner, Raj, has a computer repair shop close to what he claims is a suspected drug den. He says he has had to deal with a lot in the four years his shop has been in business.

Ealing residents say the situation in the Hanwell is 'the worst it has been in 10 years' due to drugs and anti-social behaviour Harrow Online
Hanwell Halal Buthers, Ealing featuring Abul Queus (left). Permission for use by all LDRS partners. Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

“I get so annoyed, people coming in and out, shouting, banging [the] door. I have had to call the police so many times, maybe 20 times already.” Raj says he has even found people sleeping and taking drugs outside his shop’s entrance, but admits it has got quieter after “some people got arrested”.

Moniker Solinska, who works in The Big Bites Cafe near Hanwell Clocktower, said she’s seen a lot of change over her time in the area: “I have been working here for more than 12 years so I have seen all sorts of unusual activities. I have seen people pulling up outside [the flats] and shouting up to the windows [for drugs].

“You see people walking up and down trying to steal from the stops, you see it every day. It’s not like Hanwell was before, now every time you leave home you have to watch your bag.

Ealing residents say the situation in the Hanwell is 'the worst it has been in 10 years' due to drugs and anti-social behaviour Harrow Online
Moniker Solinska, Big Bite Cafe, Hanwell. Permission for use by all LDRS partners. Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

“I head to work at 7am and I normally walk on my own and it is scary sometimes, especially in the winter.” She added: “I’m not happy here. I’m moving out of the area. It’s too dangerous, there are muggings, there are drug dealers. We don’t feel safe.”

As well as personally feeling in danger, the cafe worker says her business has been affected. “We had a lady rob our tip box she was clearly so desperate. She clearly needed it for something. When we called the police they said there was nothing they could do. It’s not like it used to be before. It’s been 12 years and it gets harder and harder. The police will come from time to time and move people away and then new people come up; it’s like mushrooms, you pull a few down and then more spring up in a few days.”

Violent incidents in the cafe occur around two or three times a month says the waitress, which has included people coming into the kitchen area and grabbing knives. The growing concerns of residents have filtered back to various authorities, leading to visits from councillors such as leader of the opposition Gary Malcolm. A joint letter signed by Cllr Polly Knewstub, Cllr Yoel Gordon and Cllr Monica Hamidi was also sent out recently to residents saying thre are “no quick fixes” to improve the Hanwell Broadway area.

In the letter they wrote: “We understand the distress that antisocial behaviour causes, and we want everyone to feel safe in Hanwell. There are no quick fixes to the issues of street drinking, homelessness and addiction. It is only by getting people the support they need (as well as deploying the penalties available to the police) that we will truly make a difference for all our residents.”

The Met has acknowledged the “particular concern” surrounding street drinking and antisocial behaviour in the area, adding that “enforcement action is ongoing and has led to numerous arrests, issue of fixed penalty notices for various offences ranging from drunk and disorderly, public order offences to breach of criminal behaviour orders”. A spokesperson added: “Early intervention scheme warnings, Community Protection Notice Warnings and Community Protection Notices are regularly issued to persistent street drinkers causing antisocial behaviour. Regular joint partnership work with outreach teams to conduct needs assessments on individuals with the aim of providing appropriate support for housing, [and] support to help with alcohol dependencies is also key to our plan, vision and ongoing community work.”

The Met argues its local policing plan for Hanwell consists of a “vision for both the short and medium to longer terms”. Short-term measures include high-visibility patrols while in the medium to long term, the Met aims to “look at licensed premises in the area to ensure they comply with objectives of prevention of crime and disorder”.

Inspector Leigh Ballard from the Ealing Safer Neighbourhoods team’s strand on West Area, said: “My team of police officers and staff on the Safer Neighbourhoods team in Hanwell work tirelessly to support and deliver for the local community and all the residents. We work in partnership with Ealing Council and have had some really positive results showcased on social media recently, however we take on board there is still concern and still work to be done. I strive to deliver results for Hanwell.”

Ealing Council was contacted for comment.