Rival newspapers published by Trinity Mirror and Archant have joined forces to protest against a "serious lack of cooperation" from Tower Hamlets division of the Metropolitan Police.
The editors of Archant's East London Advertiser, Tower Hamlets Recorder and The Docklands have joined forces with Trinity Mirror's The Wharf to demand more information from police.
East London Advertiser editor Malcolm Starbrook has said that relations with senior officers in the borough are the worst he's experienced in his 38 years in journalism and that his reporters often resort to reading yellow crime boards and chasing police cars to get a story.
Starbrook told Press Gazette: "The weekly press briefings are becoming increasingly useless. The senior officers running them see them almost purely as a chance to talk about soft ‘good news' initiatives.
"While we're not averse to that, there's no balance: they deliberately withhold details of crime. They do this because they're afraid of creating a ‘fear of crime' amongpeople on the street. The information on the website is not up to date — it is historical and not relevant to a news agenda. They say they lack the time to provide the information, but we are only asking for information that is recorded almost at the time that it happened to be released."
Two months ago, Starbrook wrote to the Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair to alert him to his concerns, but he has not yet received a response.
ELA chief reporter Ted Jeory said that when he asked the Met for a list of the previous week's serious crimes, he was told the Met would treat his question as a Freedom of Information request, which would have taken 20 working days to process. When he complained, they offered up the information two days later.
The Met revealed there had been arrests for one stabbing, two arrests after three indecent assaults, and two arrests after seven racially-motivated crimes.
Jeory said that none of the incidents was mentioned in the weekly press briefing, although there was a missing person appeal and a report of some letters being stolen.
The editors of the Tower Hamlets Recorder, The Docklands and The Wharf have written to Tower Hamlets police and insisted they are at least given the basic information about serious crimes in their area on a weekly basis.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "We remain keen to maintain good working relations with members of the press and would be more than willing to discuss issues in detail with any reporters who had concerns."
Chair of the Crime Reporters Association and chief crime correspondent at the Daily Mirror Jeff Edwards said: "Some commanders feel that if a lot of crime gets reported in their area it is a bad reflection on them.
"There are a lot of police officers who would prefer it if no crime appeared in their local papers. I would argue that public safety is the overriding factor. If you have a serial rape situation in an area and the police didn't tell their local media and someone else was raped there is some culpability there."