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Boaters call for more security on River Lea towpath after surge in crime reports

PUBLISHED: 12:50 31 October 2018

A file image of the River Lea, near the towpath where a gang has targeted six people in days. Picture: Dan Atrill/Flickr/Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0

A file image of the River Lea, near the towpath where a gang has targeted six people in days. Picture: Dan Atrill/Flickr/Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0

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Hackney boaters have called for more security after a surge in crime reports on canal towpaths.

A file image of the River Lea. Picture: Dan Atrill/Flickr/Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0A file image of the River Lea. Picture: Dan Atrill/Flickr/Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0

Between June and September, 21 crimes were reported in total to the Towpath Crime Survey. That figure has jumped to 26 in October so far, with most of them reported at Victoria Park or in the Lower Lea Valley.

The survey is an initiative started by liveaboard boaters in response to break ins, mugging and theft along London’s canal system. Not all reports are passed on to police.

Through analysis of respondents from between January 2016 and April 2018, the biggest concentration of crime – 35 per cent – was shown to be along the Hertford Union Canal and by Victoria Park.

And 64pc of respondents said they would no longer moor in places that had suffered high crime.

Oliver Redfern had a window on his boat smashed last week when someone tried to break in. It was moored by Daubeney Fields on the River Lea. He told the Gazette: “I think an increase in patrolling on the towpath would help – I know this had a positive effect around Victoria Park at the start of the year, when there was a surge of breaks–ins.”

“It hasn’t changed how I feel about living on a boat – I knew about this issue before I moved into one! I just hope it can be tackled as it would be a shame for this community to feel unprotected in London.”

Over that past six years the number of boats in London has almost doubled from 2326 to 4098, with the majority of these in East London. Canal and River Trust, the authority that manages the UK canal system, predicts a further 1,500 boats on London’s waterways by 2022.

Mike, who set up and runs the Towpath Crime Survey, said: “A lot of people were suffering from the results of crime with not a great deal of help from any authority.

“I wanted to at least make sure the boating community were armed with information about what was happening, when and where so they could at least react.” I hope the statistics will help the police react to crime on the towpath more than we feel they do now.”

Police said they responded to the break-in last week but there were no leads so they closed the investigation.

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