Walham Grove Residents 'Live in Fear' of Criminals

Locals say street plagued by antisocial behaviour and drug dealing

 Walham Grove
Residents complain of noise and congestion on Walham Grove. Picture: Google Streetview

June 13, 2023

Locals say street plagued by antisocial behaviour and drug dealing

Residents of a street close to Chelsea FC’s stadium claim antisocial behaviour and drug dealing are rife, and criminals disguising themselves as food delivery drivers are dumping narcotics in their gardens.

Walham Grove in Fulham may look like your typical London street but residents say they live in fear they could be targeted by dangerous criminals simply for objecting to it happening on their doorstep.

One resident, who did not want to be identified, said a dealer threatened to break into his house and kill him after trying to move him off his front steps.

The man’s wife told us, “They were arranging coins on our doorstep, we could see them from inside. So, my husband opened the door and asked if they were dealers and then told them to leave the premises.

“The man got up and said ‘I will come into your house. I will break in, I will torture you and I will kill you’ and then they left.”

Dealers are known to hide in front gardens to avoid police, according to residents. Another resident claimed dealers dump packages in front bushes for users to “Uber in” and fish them out.

Being wedged between Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium and the busy North End Road with its fast food shops and pubs makes Walham Grove a prime spot for match-day punters to drink.

The road has been described as a ‘public loo’ on match days with residents often complaining about punters peeing in their garden or dumping empty beer cans and half-eaten food.

This has meant the street has become somewhat of a haven for rats and other pests, one resident said. But while those issues typically occur on match days, drug dealing and antisocial behaviour are an everyday occurrence, residents claim.

He said: “When there is dealing going on, people stand much closer than when you’re having a conversation. When you see someone standing close to someone else that’s because they don’t want to be seen handling something.”

He slammed what he claimed was the police’s ‘light-hand’ approach to drug dealers. He said: “It appears that if people are caught with drugs you’re then let off with a caution, unless you’ve got a large amount. It’s almost like there’s no jeopardy.”

However the Met Police said it’s cracking down on dealing, and targeting those higher up the chain, and in some cases vulnerable children who are recruited as dealers are supported to get help rather than being criminalised.

According to the Sentencing Council, sentences for drug supply range from a community order or fine to life imprisonment depending on the amounts and circumstances.

The government last year announced a 10-year strategy for tackling drug use and supply, which aims to crack down on County Lines, introduce new penalties for recreational drug users, and provide support for people trying to come off drugs.

In Walham Grove, it has been claimed dealers are sometimes dressing up as food delivery drivers to hide their criminal activity and make it look like they have a legitimate reason to be hanging around.

Meanwhile, businesses on North End Road say the local McDonald’s has become a hotbed of antisocial behaviour.

Javad Tabeh, 50, who works at nearby Al Baydar grocers, said: “I have seen delivery drivers fight with each other, swearing and yelling.”

Aga Sznura, 47, a store manager at the charity Royal Trinity Hospice, said teens often kick off outside McDonald’s in the evening. She said she’s never witnessed any drug dealing.

Dispute this, residents claim many of the take-away shops are attracting the wrong crowd and are worried their plans to stay open will turn the area into a “Soho lite”.

One resident said: “The problem we have is there are too many shops trying to stay open into the early hours.”

She still remembers finding Salim Coulter’s dead body near her home. The woman, who does not want to be identified, said: “There was a loud bang so I came out and then I saw a big crowd around the Jerk shop and when I walked up, I saw him there, dead next to the car.”

Coulter, a 24-year-old trainee gas engineer and drug dealer, was shot dead in Walham Grove on November 5, 2016 in front of his friend after having had a meal with them.

He had been dining at Jerky’s Jamaican restaurant when he was shot in the head by a man in a hoodie at point-blank range as he returned to his friend’s car.

Two years later, Omar Hutson was found guilty of Coulter’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

McDonald’s said it wouldn’t comment but pointed out that it was one of a number of businesses experiencing antisocial behaviour issues in the surrounding area.

They say this is being committed by one or two groups of teenagers and that Fulham McDonald’s has been proactively working with the Police and Fulham BID (Business Improvement District) to try to resolve these issues.

In the interim, the restaurant has introduced a temporary security presence to help maintain a family-friendly atmosphere and staff have also reached out to the local neighbourhood teams to see what else can be done.

Hammersmith and Fulham council’s deputy leader Ben Coleman, who represents the ward, said drug dealing is a challenge all councils across the capital face and that he would be speaking with the council’s Law Enforcement Team (LET) to step up patrols in the area.

He acknowledged past problems with McDonald’s on North End Road and vowed to work with the local manager to tackle ABS and litter issues.

He said the council was fully committed to turning North End Road into a more attractive place to shop but urged traders to engage with residents more often.

Mr Coleman said: “I think it’s very important for any business that wants to trade on or near North End Road to understand the area it is in and to take the trouble to talk to residents and in the submission that they make, to show they’ve addressed residents’ concerns.

“From experience, that isn’t always the case and inevitably that means a great deal of time can be wasted.”

He added: “Don’t just come to an area like a spaceship and drop yourself down and ignore the fact there are local people living in residential roads nearby, who could be affected by what you’re doing.

“Anyone who takes a sort of spaceship approach on North End Road or the roads off it and doesn’t choose to engage with the residents is probably not doing themselves any favours.” He said the council would access late-night licence applications on a case-by-case basis.

The Met Police said it made more than 200 arrests and seized over one million pounds worth of drugs during a week-long crackdown on County Lines gangs earlier this year.

They said in several cases, vulnerable children were preyed on by offenders and used as a commodity, placing them into an incredibly dangerous environment. Instead of criminalising these children, officers work with Rescue and Response to ensure they are safeguarded and supported.

Between Monday, 27 February and Sunday, 5 March officers seized 8.3kgs of Class A drugs and 37.6 kilograms Class B drugs, £652,214 in cash and five firearms and 51 weapons including knives, machetes and swords.

Detective Superintendent Rick Sewart, Lead Responsible Officer for County Lines in the Met, said: “The Met is committed to relentlessly pursue those responsible for County Lines drug supply, bringing them to justice for their abhorrent crimes.”

Adrian Zorzut - Local Democracy Reporter