Residents fear village is now a 'no-go' zone

BY day, Muswell Hill is famous for its village atmosphere, fashionable boutiques, coffee shops, excellent schools and spacious woods.

Charlotte Newton

BY day, Muswell Hill is famous for its village atmosphere, fashionable boutiques, coffee shops, excellent schools and spacious woods. It's also known as the birth place of many artists and musicians, including Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks and Johnny Borrell from the band Razorlight.

In recent weeks, however, its night time reputation has been tarnished by drunken, anti-social behaviour. One man was stabbed in the chest in the early hours and another was glassed in the face.

Speak to any homeowner who overlooks the triangle of nightclubs in the town centre and they will give you a very different account of what life can be like by night in this attractive, leafy suburb of north London.

Peter Thompson, 70, of Hillfield Park, said: "Muswell Hill is a no-go area at night, it's completely lawless. People come from Totten-ham and Wood Green because they know it's a soft touch and they can do what they want without any punishment or reprieve.

"So far, our complaints have fallen on deaf ears because the council thinks we're the professional middle classes, bleating on about young people. The licencees disbanded Pub Watch, so we have no way of discussing our concerns with them."

Most Read

A Broadway night out in Muswell Hill last weekend revealed that the punters in pubs and clubs come from far and wide. But those we spoke to all felt it was still one of the most pleasant places in London to socialise.

"There's no aggro here. Everyone gets along and has a good time. I love Muswell Hill. It attracts a younger crowd than Crouch End. It's not dangerous at all," said Matthew Mealey, 28, who lives in Nelson Road, Crouch End.

Marketing Manager Sharna Reeves lives in Hillfield Park, Muswell Hill. Ms Reeves, 30, said: "I haven't experienced any violence - but I've had a problem with a peeping tom outside my house."

Nursery nurse Tijen Salih drove to Muswell Hill with her husband and a group of friends from Enfield. Mrs Salih, 27, said: "We used to go out in Wood Green, but it feels much safer here. There are more restrictions on age and the security is good. I work in Tottenham and stabbings are so common there."

Jay Watson, 28, lives in nearby Palmers Green. He said: "I had a good night out - I'm here every weekend, until 4am. I go to the Village and the Hill. I never have any trouble - it's always other people. If there are fights the police get involved before things get out of hand."

Life has definitely become more difficult for the late-night off-licenses and bar owners though.

One bar manager, who asked not to be named, said: "When I leave work at 3am it's definitely rough in the street. People who live in Muswell Hill have stopped coming out at night because it's unsafe."

Police have responded to residents' concerns by stepping up their weekend night time patrols. Acting borough commander Richard Wood led a team of three sergeants and 10 PCs in the centre of Muswell Hill from 7pm until 3am last Saturday and Sunday. The streets were crawling with police.

Mr Wood said: "We're here to reassure the public and to prevent crime. In terms of crime, the levels here are very low. There have been some out of character violent incidents recently."

When Broadway reporters met up with Sgt Paul Saunders of the Muswell Hill Safer Neighbour-hoods Team at 10pm he said: "We're here to reassure the community and prevent anti-social behaviour."

Mohammed Habib, 35, has owned the newsagent Supersave in Muswell Hill since 1996 and believes that the area has become more violent at night in the past two years. The newsagent originally had four security cameras, but now has 14, with every angle under surveillance.

Mr Habib said: "People who live locally are friendly and polite, but the night scene is totally different. Troublemakers come in from Tottenham and Wood Green and they linger around in the early hours.

"About six weeks ago a couple of guys had a fight and one of them tried to steal a bottle from my shop to use as a weapon. I persuaded him not to, but then he started fighting with customers in my shop.

"I pressed the panic button but police failed to respond although they did arrest the two men later that night."

"I've repeatedly said to police that they need to have a more visible presence. There has been a strong police presence recently, which has helped a lot because the police can get to any trouble quickly and nip it in the bud."

At 3.30am on Saturday morning, there had been one arrest: a man who tried to use counterfeit money to buy a round of drinks.

Although it may be a costly use of resources, the presence of so many police officers outside pubs and bars in Muswell Hill clearly had the desired effect on this night. Anti-social behaviour was at a minimum.