Police are to launch a crackdown on drug and alcohol-fuelled anti-social behaviour along the London Marathon route after serious disorder during this year’s race saw a mounted officer crushed beneath his horse.
Officers say crowds of young people drinking and taking nitrous oxide, known as hippy crack, turned part of the route near Tower Bridge on April 28 into a “no-go area” for spectators.
They want to impose a public space protection order (PSPO) giving police extra powers to confiscate alcohol and nitrous oxide along the City of London’s section of the route when the 40th London Marathon takes place next year.
The move has been revealed in a City of London Corporation report which said even seasoned riot police had been shocked by the disorder.
It says the area around Trinity Square has become a magnet for “considerable anti-social behaviour and violent disorder” on marathon day.
And it reveals a shocking episode during this year’s race involving “approximately 500 highly intoxicated young adults present consuming alcohol and nitrous oxide”.
“This year as the day progressed, the atmosphere became increasingly hostile and eventually resulted in arrests for violent disorder, grievous bodily harm and possession of class A drugs,” the report read.
“While assisting in an arrest one of the police horses fell, trapping the mounted officer under the horse, and resulting in the officer receiving a broken ankle.” The report added: “Seasoned Public Order Officers assigned to the event, who are used to dealing with high levels of disorder, were taken aback with the level of disorder and how quickly the situation escalated.”
Marathon organisers had worked closely with police to try and prevent disorder, replacing a rock band with a brass band and cancelling a DJ set close to mile 23 of the running route. They also increased barriers outside the Liberty Bounds pub in Trinity Square, brought in a police CCTV van and horses and worked with enforcement officers from Tower Hamlets council to cut street drinking. But the area was still dogged with anti-social behaviour.
Nick Bitel, chief executive of London Marathon, said: “In recent years, there has been a gathering of young people drinking and taking nitrous oxide in one isolated area in the City.
“We will continue to work to support the police in every way we can to ensure that spectators can enjoy the world’s greatest marathon.”
Chief Inspector Jess Wynne said: “We have requested the City of London Corporation apply for a PSPO … this will ensure City of London police officers have the same powers to deal with violent and anti-social behaviour as their Metropolitan Police colleagues.”
The report will be considered by the City of London Corporation’s licensing committee on Wednesday.
Following the meeting, local residents and businesses will be consulted about the plans and the restrictions that would be put in place, with a decision on final approval expected early next year.