Forest Gate businessmen threaten rates revolt over crime concerns

TWO Forest Gate businessmen repeatedly targeted by criminals are threatening to withhold their rates if security is not stepped up.

Their site, in Woodgrange Road, has been hit by two burglaries, a theft and an act of criminal damage since 2003.

Shahzad Butt and business partner Munawar Ahmed have run MAK Property Services there since 2005. The pair also ran a convenience store called Forest Stores at the site for two years prior to that.

The latest break-in happened in the early morning of January 18 when seven computers, two mobile phones and a camera – collectively valued at up to �5,000 – were taken. Mr Butt also lost �7,000 in takings during a knifepoint robbery two years ago.

But despite appeals to Newham Council – and a petition signed by neighbouring stores in 2009 – he says nothing has been done to prevent a repeat of the crimes.

Mr Butt, 35, said: “Newham Council said they had no budget for more cameras, though they did say they could do something about putting a locked gate on the back alley.

“But since then we’ve heard nothing and something needs to be done. Shopkeepers are leaving because they’ve been burgled so many times. We are thinking about organising a peaceful protest at East Ham Town Hall or not paying our business rates.”

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A council spokeswoman insisted Mr Butt’s concerns are being taken seriously and would be addressed. She said: “A council officer will be contacting Mr Butt to arrange a joint visit to his premises with an officer from the Safer Neighbourhood Team and a police crime prevention advisor. Council officers have previously liaised with local businesses regarding potential design changes to the alleyway running behind Mr Butt’s premises, which is a public highway.

“Businesses were informed of the borough’s limited CCTV capacity at that time. Council and police resources will be allocated according to where residents tell us they have particular problems.”