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Highams Park residents take police to task on women’s safety

“I came here looking for reassurance that something was going to be done, but actually I feel more scared”
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Worried residents attended a meeting with local police last Thursday (credit: LDRS)
Worried residents attended a meeting with local police last Thursday (credit: LDRS)

Local police have promised to increase patrols in the Highams Park area due to growing fears about women’s safety.

At a public meeting last Thursday, chaired by local MP Iain Duncan-Smith, residents called for a greater police presence following a string of high-profile attacks.

These include the reported rape and sexual assault of two girls near Highams Park Lake in August and a series of attacks on customers, including a young woman, at the Tesco Superstore on 5th October.

Sergeants Surat Miah and Rob Sewell attended All Saints Church to listen to residents’ concerns.

One resident – who asked not to be named – told them: “I’ve lived here all my life and expect muggings but I don’t expect to hear about rapes or attempted rapes.

“I’ve got teenage girls – I don’t want them to go out but I have to let them – so I want to know what level of service we can expect from police.”

Sgt Sewell said there is currently an “influx” of new officers into the local force but that numbers are still not where they “need to be”.

However, he added: “You will see an increase in police presence but the challenge is – we have to be honest with everybody – that I have 96 police officers on the Waltham Forest neighbourhood policing team.


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“I have police officers in Chingford but I can’t tell you those police officers are going to be in the area at the current time, we don’t know what calls we’re going to get.”

Mother Huma Stone said her daughter was left terrified after being thrown down the Tesco travelator during the October 5th incident and accused the police of failing to “follow up” with an investigation.

She added: “This could have been a lot worse. What will it take? There could have been a death.

“I’m a supporter of the police, please tell me how to restore my faith in the police service.”

Huma said the police gave her daughter a number to call but the staff member who answered had no record of the incident.

Sgt Miah claimed the incident was “isolated” and said there was now a crime report so an officer would “look into” it.

When contacted for comment about the Tesco incident, a Met spokesperson said the man accused of the assaults was “escorted from the store by a relative”.

They added that no one had been seriously injured and confirmed that officers visited a woman in her 20s at home the next day.

The sergeants encouraged residents concerned about crime to join neighbourhood ward panels, where issues can be discussed with local police officers.

A Waltham Forest Council staff member also urged residents to report any concerns about safety through the recently-launched Safe Streets app.

They added that schools in the borough do work to address male violence by teaching students about relationships, appropriate behaviour and gender violence.

However, towards the ending of the meeting, one mother-of-two said: “I came here looking for reassurance that something was going to be done, but actually I feel more scared.

“You haven’t said what you’re doing and all this is happening. I’m really angry and really upset.”


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