Mayor Challenged Over Blatant Drug Taking in Street

Conservative opposition says problem is now out of control

Tony Devenish MLA

March 18, 2024

Sadiq Khan was challenged by a Tory critic on this Friday (15 March) over the amount of “blatantly visible” drug taking seen on the streets of London.

The mayor was told during a City Hall meeting that the issue had grown “seemingly out of control right across London after eight years of your mayoralty”.

Mr Khan said Londoners who witness habitual drug taking should phone the police, and he highlighted the work of his London Drugs Forum. But he warned that the Government must provide “adequate, long term funding” to address the problem.

The topic was raised at a Mayor’s Question Time session by Conservative assembly member Tony Devenish, who said he had recently attended a community meeting on the issue in the West End.

He gave as one example the residents of a housing estate who told him that when they leave their front door, “they walk past somebody who is blatantly and obviously – literally in the same spot, every evening and every morning – taking drugs”.

He added that these residents had asked him and local MP Nickie Aiken, “How do we stop these people literally shooting up in the street, literally hundreds of yards from Bond Street Tube station?”

Mr Khan thanked him for relaying the concerns, adding: “It must be a really scary experience your constituents have.

“They should ring the police, they should have the details of the local SNT [Safer Neighbourhood Team]… They’ll take action against these habitual, regular drug users.”

Mr Devenish added that the “noise from people using drugs” was also a significant problem.

“It ruins your sleep, you’re trying to get your baby to sleep, you’re trying to get your kids to sleep,” he said.

“It is a huge issue – and it isn’t just about phoning the police. There’s got to be a sustainable way of stopping this, because it’s absolutely wrecking people’s lives.”

The mayor had earlier told the assembly member: “Making Londoners safer is my top priority, and I know that the harmful impacts of drugs are of serious concern to Londoners.

“My police and crime plan is clear that the Met Police Service and partners should be working together to tackle the harms associated with drug taking, including anti-social behaviour and violent crime.

“Residents should not have to witness illegal activity like this in their communities. It’s liable to make people feel unsafe, and the networks that are supported by drugs do pose a real threat to us all.

“So I’d like to reassure Londoners that we’re doing everything that we can to clamp down on illegal drug use.”

He pointed to the fact that since 2022, City Hall has invested £4million in the expansion of Project Adder in the Met Police, which aims to combat drug misuse.

He also said that his London Drugs Forum had brought multi-agency partners together to tackle drug harms, but added: “All this work is taking place against a challenging national backdrop.

“In a 2021 report on drugs, Dame Carol Black reflected on the constraints placed on key agencies by cuts in Government funding and competing priorities.

“The Government must provide adequate, long term funding – something I know London’s directors of public health have called for.”

Noah Vickers - Local Democracy Reporter