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Lib Dem won't help vigilante' residents

PUBLISHED: 15:56 24 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:59 07 September 2010

RESIDENTS fed up with criminals who have taken the law into their own hands have been branded 'vigilantes' by their own councillor

Ben McPartland

RESIDENTS fed up with criminals who have taken the law into their own hands have been branded "vigilantes" by their own councillor.

People living in the Cantelowes area of Camden Town say burglaries, drug dealing and car crime are now a feature of everyday life.

Statistics released by police last month revealed the area was the most burgled ward in London last year.

Unhappy with the situation, residents have formed an action group and put up posters with the heading "Enough is Enough". But the move has sparked accusations from local councillor Paul Braithwaite that they are becoming vigilantes.

Camden Mews resident Annie Mullins, who has joined the Cantelowes Residents Taking Action (CRTA) group, said: "It's been terrible. We are talking about serious issues which are putting us at risk.

"One woman has to negotiate with drug dealers just to get into her own home. If we don't do anything, what is going to happen? It is just going to get worse.

"We will have to leave the area because we cannot put up with it. We don't want to do that but just want to defend our patch.

"We got together and made a poster and put it up around the local area. We put it up outside our councillor's house because we wanted him to take notice."

The Lib Dem councillor took offence at the posters, believing they were politically motivated and aimed at removing him and his colleagues from the town hall.

In a letter to the group, Mr Braithwaite said: "I take great exception to the flyer that has been fixed to hundreds of trees locally - not least because 10 staples in each is not good for the trees.

"The message is provocative to say the least. It insinuates that neither the police nor the local councillors are active on your behalf and it is clearly politically motivated."

He added: "I am not going to engage with a politically motivated vigilante group. I will, however, continue to work with both the Camden Square Neighbourhood Association and the Safer Neighbourhoods Police.

"There is no complacency and we all realise that both burglary and drug dealing are a very present perennial problem in our ward."

Residents' grievances surround open drug dealing around Cantelowes Gardens and the grassy area off Camden Road known as the Billiard Table. Many of them have also reported burglaries in recent months.

Ms Mullins, a victim of burglary herself, said she was staggered by her councillor's reaction.

She said: "We are paying our council tax and he should not treat us in such a manner. People are at risk here and this is what we get back from him.

"We are not bothered in terms of political persuasion - we are from all different parties."

The posters have since been taken down and replaced by posters from the Cantelowes Safer Neighbourhoods Team.

Chairman of the Cantelowes Safer Neighbourhoods Panel, Meric Apak, said: "In all honesty I can understand where the residents are coming from. However, I would have preferred them to act informed rather than uninformed.

"Going in like a bull in a china shop is not right. We do still have problems with burglary but drug dealing is a national problem."

ben.mcpartland@hamhigh.co.uk

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