Huge drop in anti-social behaviour at London Fields following pandemic crackdown, new figures show

London Fields, pictured before the pandemic

Cases of anti-social activity in London Fields saw a massive drop last year after a council clampdown on barbecues, drugs and loud music during the pandemic.

Enforcement officers intervened in 1,121 cases of anti-social behaviour in the park last summer – down from 7,047 during 2021.

The park has a Green Flag award and is a popular spot for Hackney residents and visitors to relax and enjoy meeting up with friends.

It is home to the lido, a cricket pitch, tennis courts, a BMX track, and an annual dog show.

The first record of London Fields dates back to the 13th century, when it was used by drovers to pasture their livestock en route to market.

The park’s user group runs weekly litter picks throughout the summer months.

The enforcement figures for 2021 also include 143 weapon sweeps and 462 cases of people being stopped from using cannabis – neither of which feature in the 2022 report.

In June 2020, the council had to get a High Court injunction because of  “unprecedented levels of anti-social behaviour” during the first Covid lockdown.

Problems included barbecues, drug use, noisy music, littering, social gatherings, drinking, and people urinating and defecating in and around the park.

Council staff suffered verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation, according to a Town Hall report.

Last summer, officers told 18 groups of people to turn off loud music – a huge fall from the 401 cases in 2021.

They also had to stop eight barbecues, compared to 314 the previous year.

Hackney banned barbecues in all its parks and open spaces in 2019.

Enforcement teams also recorded a big decrease in the number of aggressive beggars targetting park users – down from 228 cases in 2021 to just 20 last year.

In 2022, most fines involved people caught urinating in the park, which does have public toilets.

Four enforcement officers patrolled London Fields every Thursday to Sunday from June until the end of September last year to tackle increased complaints.

The problems pose a challenge for the council. In a report being discussed at its corporate committee this week, Gerry McCarthy, head of community, enforcement and business regulation, wrote: “There are no easy answers to the challenges in the London Fields area. The recent levels of anti-social behaviour, both actual and perceived, on sunny or warmer days is exclusionary to families and to some local residents.”

He added: “We also know for many people, especially those in overcrowded accommodation and without outside space, our parks and wider public realm are the only places where meeting with friends is possible and has been permitted during the pandemic.”

This summer, the council has stepped up the number of enforcement officers working in parks and green spaces, whilst two core officers will be based in London Fields.