East Ham pedestrians targeted by street scam but police powerless to stop

Alleged perpetrators encouraging members of the public to play the shell 'game' in High Street North

Alleged perpetrators encouraging members of the public to play the shell 'game' in High Street North, East Ham. Picture: Clive Power - Credit: Clive Power

Police are being thwarted by gangs running a street scam in East Ham despite MP Stephen Timms raising concerns.

Pedestrians in High Street North have been parting with £20 at a time in a gambling ruse known as the shell game.

Played since Ancient Greek times, the swindle involves a small ball being shifted between one of three identical containers with players having to guess where it ends up.

Small groups have been operating up and down the high street for several months, often outside WH Smith and across the road from KFC.

There are fears that the criminals involved are using fake players who ‘win’ to hoodwink unsuspecting people.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms has written to Newham’s borough commander, Ade Adelekan, and Newham Council on behalf of several worried constituents.

A spokesman for the police’s Safer Neighbourhood Team said it was proving difficult to prosecute those involved.

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He said: “The groups are organised, in that they have many spotters and can quickly disperse on seeing police.

“We do work with the local authority who monitor the high street via CCTV and on seeing the groups notify police.

“We have conducted some plain clothes patrols, but unfortunately no street gambling took place.”

Clive Power, a communications consultant who visits the area to shop, said he had seen the games played frequently.

He said: “I am surprised that Newham Council with all its CCTV coverage has not clamped down on all this illegal activity.”

Responding, a council spokeswoman said: “The problem of illegal street gambling in the borough is a matter for the local police, however council officers are aware of the issue and have been lending support, with our CCTV team monitoring, and passing on information to the police.

“Tackling this problem requires significant police resources, as these criminal gangs are extremely well organised.”

Cllr Forhad Hussain, cabinet member for crime and anti-social behaviour, said the illegal gambling was “run by criminals to rip off the unwary”.

He said: “These ‘games’ are a scam. You may as well stand in the high street and set fire to your money.”

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