High Path estate was the target of a police operation last month.
Looming eerily over South Wimbledon Station, a set of tower blocks pierce the skyline, dwarfing their neighbours in stature. Collectively, they form High Path estate, which just a few weeks ago awoke to the sound of screaming and banging as doors parted from hinges.
By no means one of London’s most notorious, High Path has only recently become a place to avoid at night. On September 19 it made news after being targeted in a coordinated multi-borough police operation involving 350 officers that saw 23 people arrested, mostly for drug-related crimes.
Two weeks after the incident and it is clear police are keen to make their presence felt in the estate, as three officers take a routine stroll through the empty car park. The only problem – it is 2 o’clock in the afternoon, broad daylight and there is barely a soul in sight.
“It is night when they should be doing patrols,” says a resident wearily as she hangs her washing over a line.
The 43-year-old mother of two has lived in High Path for two years after moving from a house in Morden and is now desperate to get out. Her sons, aged 11 and 13, are not allowed to leave the apartment after dark.
She tells us: “My eldest comes back from football practice at 8pm. At ten past eight if he’s not home, I’m close to having a panic attack.”
The woman did not want her name recorded for fear of incurring the wrath of those she so desperately avoids. She says that if she has to run an errand at night she must take a wide detour via the estate’s side exit to avoid the crowds that gather at the front gate and under the archway.
Usually 15 or so in number, with more at the weekends, their only sense of order appears to be the regularity of their nocturnal meetings. The crowd consists mostly of teenagers but the odd older face will often swell their ranks.
A few weeks ago, just yards from her door, the woman called the police after a group that was congregated on a balcony threw beer cans at her before hurling vile threats and abuse. When the police arrived, the crowd dispersed. To her dismay, they were back the following night.
“I did not believe places like this actually existed. I think I was quite sheltered before I came here,” she explains.
While some of the kids live on the estate, there are many who come in from Mitcham. Cars pull in and out of the complex throughout the night, often leaving a faint fog of marijuana trailing behind. From what the woman has seen, it is clear that drug deals are taking place.
“People come in groups and disappear in the bin area, before coming out five minutes later and leaving,” she tells us.
After the police raid, Merton’s Detective Chief Superintendent, Darren Williams, said: “For quite some time the public have been telling us about concerns around drug crime in and around the High Path estate.”
The fact that people do complain says that the majority detest the activity that goes on here. In this sense, High Path is not a terrible place. At the moment though, it is no place for raising young children. We asked the woman if she feels more comfortable now since the arrests.
“Not really no. The atmosphere is very tense and the crowds still turn up every night anyway.”
After ten minutes of conversation we have drawn the eyes of several residents and the mother-of-two clearly becomes uncomfortable speaking to two men with notepads. She returns to her washing and the conversation is over.
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