In response to a surge in drug crime in Soho, the West End Labour Action Team has released a 5-point plan to tackle the issue at root.
The plan eschews making small, timid changes – the approach of the authorities to date – and calls for a bold and tough approach to do away with what a Soho rector has called a “sudden spike” in drug crime in the area.
A radical overhaul of the policing of drug-related anti-social behaviour is called for, and the plan demands that the authorities are held to account in their responsibility to make sure that Soho is safe for residents, workers and businesses.
The 5 point plan argues that: l
- A special ‘Soho Drugs Task Force’ should be established, led by a Westminster Council Cabinet member that takes responsibility for coordinating all Council departments and liaising with the police, Camden local authorities and the community.
- A cross-borough strategy must be set up involving police authorities and the borough councils involving Westminster and Camden boroughs. The strategy must recognise that users and dealers move between borough boundaries as they wish and that the work of the authorities must respond to that challenge.
- The concerns of local residents, workers and businesses need to be at the heart of plans to tackle anti-social behaviour. This means that the local community need to be consulted so that the aspirations for Soho are at the heart of plans to tackle drug crime.
- Technology and CCTV must be used. This means reversing plans to cut CCTV and employing bright lightning in hot-spots of drug use, amongst others.
- A distinction must be made between dealers and users. Dealers knowingly exploit and prey on vulnerable individuals, and must be dealt with toughness and swiftly. On the other hand, therapy and support needs to be readily accessible to users so they can beat their habits and rebuild their lives.
The West End team are calling for feedback on their plans, and want as many residents, workers and business owners to come forward with their views.
Pancho Lewis, of the West End Labour team, said: “The recent Safer Soho community meeting confirmed what we’ve repeatedly heard from residents this summer. A tough and bold approach is needed to tackle what is a daily public threat to many residents and workers.
“There’s no use making small changes round the edges – the authorities need to step up to the challenges and tackle the issue at root. Our plan sets out how we think this can be achieved.”
Patrick Lilley, also of the Labour team, said: “Throughout the summer we’ve heard stories of shock and fear about the recent surge in drug use and dealing in Soho. This can’t continue. Parts of Soho at night resemble a scene from the Walking Dead. We need more police on the streets of Soho.“
“We’ve set out a plan we believe can help solve the crisis and now want to hear from the community about how to improve and refine it. What we have here isn’t an end product, but a beginning of a conversation to bring the community together and put an end to this crisis. Residents, workers and businesses deserve to feel safe. So let’s make it happen.”
The full 5 point plan can be read here and feedback given.