Dial a dealer: Camden to stop roll-out of new BT InLink kiosks after they get used by drug dealers

The InLink panel outside Camden Town tube station being used to make a phonecall. Picture: Siorna As

The InLink panel outside Camden Town tube station being used to make a phonecall. Picture: Siorna Ashby - Credit: Siorna Ashby

Camden Council is stopping BT installing new InLink kiosks in the borough – months after the Ham&High revealed they were being used for drug dealing.

Last year, over a period of weeks, this newspaper witnessed several drug deals taking place at the new kiosks, with users calling dealers through the free phone facility in front of Camden Town Tube station.

The panels were piloted in Camden, before being rolled out in London and across the country. They offer free wi-fi, information and phone calls. InLink has now turned off the phone call facility at a number of its boxes in response to its usage.

BT boosted the roll-out, which was meant to see 700 set up across the country, using “permitted development rights”, meaning councils didn’t have to sign off applications through planning committees as the boxes were simply upgrading existing infrastructure.

But Camden isn’t having it, saying the boxes aren’t classed as permitted development after all. A spokesperson said the council had changed its stance and now required the InLink boxes to go through planning.

“They are not a traditional payphone and are multi-purpose in their function,” they said, “providing free calls and wi-fi as well as advertising space.”

At the time, chair of Camden Safer Neighbourhood Board Roy Walker said the only way he could see the problem ending was if the phone facility was switched off.

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Camden isn’t the only borough to take action in recent months. As reported in our sister paper the Islington Gazette, Islington Council has got BT and InLink to turn off the phone function from three kiosks, due to their links with drug dealing and antisocial behaviour.

The policy switch on the kiosks adds to the Met’s latest attempts to crack down on drug crime in Camden Town.

It recently closed three shops for three months over the sale of drug paraphernalia.

Cllr Danny Beales, Camden’s planning chief, said: “We are aware that there has been increasing evidence of issues of community safety and anti-social behaviour associated with InLink panels in certain locations across London.

“We are working with InLink to ensure that both short- and long-terms measures are taken to address these issues.

“Until such time that we are fully satisfied that these problems have been properly addressed, we will not be issuing further planning permissions for installation of these panels.”

InLink’s managing director, Matt Bird said: “Unfortunately, we have seen a small number of incidents where users have abused the service. We take this issue very seriously and are committed to working with the police and the council to address any concerns of antisocial behaviour raised, to ensure that InLinks remain a welcome addition to the city’s streets.

“As part of this, we have temporarily restricted free phone calls to mobile phone numbers on a limited number of units in London, while we continue to collaborate closely with the police and local council to support them in addressing local issues.”