Havering told to get wise to drug crime by Home Office

Cheryl Coppell said the council needed a new strategy on drug crime. Picture: Shutterstock

Cheryl Coppell said the council needed a new strategy on drug crime. Picture: Shutterstock - Credit: Shutterstock

The Home Office has said Havering needs to wise up to the local drug market after conducting a review into gang related crime.

The government body visited after the borough was one of 10 nationwide added to the Ending Gang and Youth Violence programme, which gives specialist support to tackle the issue.

The findings showed Havering was performing well in most areas and working well with schools, but “under the radar” moves of troubled families or gang-involved young people into the borough were causing problems.

Speaking at the health and wellbeing board meeting on Wednesday, chief executive of the council, Cheryl Coppell, responded by saying the borough needed a fresh “long-term” approach to tackling drug crime.

“We need to sign off a new drug strategy,” she said. “At the moment it’s just treatment and prevention, and the long term users, not this group of young people.

“We need to seriously look at our strategy by way of prevention and treatment for the young. We’ve never done that.

“Older drug users are not doing as much potential damage as young people who spin off into crime and gangs.”

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Chair of the meeting, Cllr Steven Kelly, suggested the council needed to target the wards in the borough more prone to the crime.

“We need to move towards a focus philosophy rather than a global approach,” he said.

At the town hall meeting, community safety team leader Diane Egan spoke about the dangers of gangs from outer boroughs moving to Havering because of increased action being taken in their areas.

A lack of information between boroughs has led to limited awareness and means the rise is not being managed locally.

Home Office staff interviewed 40 people from police, probation, mental health and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), as well as young people.

Though gang crime is not a big problem in Havering at the moment, preventative work is being done due to the expected population increase of 1,900 a year, with a 21 per cent increase in aged 15 and under by 2026, compared to 12pc regionally.

By 2033, the population of Havering is expected to be 281,000, with 795 homes a year needed to accommodate the growth.

The borough will work with the programme’s large network of people with experience of dealing with gangs.

Following the end of the public consultation over spending cuts, Mrs Coppell said she would be asking officers to revisit the proposed cuts to the youth service to ensure the good work was not affected.