Here’s a very unique way of trying to solve a problem you believe authorities are doing nothing about
: fed-up residents from Tower Hamlets, in east London, have commissioned a group of guerrilla artists to create road signs especially designed for drug dealers.
So, while they look like regular road signs, they’re anything but. One, placed at an intersection where drug drops happen on the daily, reads “crack pickup.” Another advises drivers to “give way to oncoming drug dealers,” while another marks a “needle-free zone” and another a parking spot reserved for “drug dealers only.”
The Columbia Road Tenants’ and Residents’ Association commissioned the signs, which were created by a group of guerrilla artists calling themselves the Columbia Road Cartel. Penny Creed, vice-chair of the association, tells The Guardian things are so bad she could think of no other way to shame the police into action.
“Drug programs have been cut, mental health programs have been cut, and it’s a perfect storm,” she explains.
Other residents confirm her story: drug dealing has become the new normal in the area, and residents are afraid to step out of their homes.
Less than 24 hours after the signs went up, as word of it was spreading in the media, city workers had already removed them. Creed can’t help but remark how quickly they were to act, when they’re still to replace a streetlight drug dealers broke so they could conduct their affairs away from prying eyes.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Tower Hamlets says, “This is a major problem in many places. This is mainly a criminal matter and we need to see more police officers on the streets. Police are not a council responsibility and government cuts have had a big effect – in Tower Hamlets we have lost over 200 officers, and this has a real impact on the ground. Too often criminal activity including drug dealing is not being stopped, and like residents I think this is unacceptable.”
Still, it’s clear that he doesn’t approve of putting up fake road signs to highlight the problem.