Police use Asbos to clean up Camden Town

UNRULY youths will come face to face with magistrates today as police use the power of the Asbo to tackle drug dealing and yobbish behaviour in Camden Town

Ben McPartland

UNRULY youths will come face to face with magistrates today as police use the power of the Asbo to tackle drug dealing and yobbish behaviour in Camden Town.

Officers are hoping judges at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court will accept their evidence and slap anti-social behaviour orders on 14 youths who allegedly have been involved in drug dealing around Camden High Street.

The action is part of ongoing efforts by the Camden Town and Primrose Hill Safer Neighbourhoods team to tackle the drug market and its knock-on effects.

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If magistrates are satisfied, it will break the century mark for the number of Asbos obtained by the community police team since it was formed back in 2004.

Sergeant Roger Smith said: "We have collated evidence against each of these youths, which has come from a variety of sources. But it is the youths themselves who have chosen to go down this process.

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"All of them have been given a letter warning them they would end up with Asbos. It warned them if they didn't want an Asbo then they should change their behaviour, but since the letters were sent out these people have continued to come to our notice.

"In effect they are the architects of their own downfall."

Sgt Smith's team used the same powers this time last year to tackle a teenage gang who dealt drugs and plagued shoppers and traders around Inverness Street.

In total, 10 teenagers, aged 16 to 18, who police say were members of gang called the African Nations Crew, were given injunctions banning them from the area for two years.

In February this year, the team also obtained an Asbo against a man from east London who came to Camden to sell cannabis. It brought the number of Asbos brought by the SNT to 93, suggesting the team regards the Asbo legislation brought in under Tony Blair as a valuable tool in the fight against crime.

"Because of the nature of the problems we face in Camden Town, Asbos are very useful. The majority of these youths come from outside the area and the only reason they are here is to indulge in anti-social behaviour and get involved in the drug scene," said Sgt Smith.

"There is a lot of talk about Asbos being a badge of honour but I don't agree with that at all. Asbos are certainly not misused here. It's not just my team turning up and being vindictive, it is the magistrates who ban them after considering all the evidence."

Sgt Smith believes the recent move by the government to reclassify cannabis as a Class B rather than C drug will have no effect on how they police Camden Town.

He also had a warning for punters who turn up to the area looking to buy drugs.

"If there were no demand there would be no drugs market or dealers in Camden Town. I would discourage people from coming to buy drugs - there is an awful lot of police activity now," Sgt Smith said.


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