Second rape claim in weeks hits Swiss Cottage
Ben McPartland POLICE are investigating an allegation of rape against a 13-year-old girl, the latest worrying incident to occur in a troubled part of Belsize. Residents and traders have told the Ham&High of their concern at the rise in trouble in the are
POLICE are investigating an allegation of rape against a 13-year-old girl, the latest worrying incident to occur in a troubled part of Belsize.
Residents and traders have told the Ham&High of their concern at the rise in trouble in the area after the second allegation of rape was made in just a few weeks.
Paul Perkins, who runs the Winchester Project youth centre, said his staff "do not know what is going to happen next".
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The alleged offence, which police are officially describing as serious sexual assault, but sources have confirmed as rape, took place last Wednesday at around 8.30pm in the Swiss Cottage Open Space behind Winchester Road.
It comes just weeks after police cordoned off a flat in nearby Fellows Road to investigate an allegation of a rape against a 23-year-old woman.
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Mr Perkins said: "We do feel a bit on edge and we are not entirely sure what is going to happen next. There is certainly not a sense that things are becoming calmer. It feels a bit chaotic."
Last Tuesday there were also reports of two gangs meeting for a pre-arranged fight in the green space but dozens of police managed to foil it before any punches were thrown.
Staff at a restaurant on Winchester Road also told the Ham&High youths had recently thrown a firework into an elderly ladies car, causing her to faint.
And in another incident a pensioner received help in Arabesque restaurant after being hit on the head by a bottle after confronting youths for throwing objects.
Staff said she did not want to report the incident to police fearing reprisals from the youths.
The Winchester Project is now paying staff to work later to prevent the young people who use the centre from being caught up in any trouble.
Mr Perkins would like to see more funding to help ease the problems in the area.
He said: "We are paying staff a bit more to stay later and make sure the kids get home or get on their buses safely. It is something many of the staff have been doing up to now anyway. We would like to provide round the clock provision here but we are limited by our resources. There is concern and there is a feeling, not that we could have stopped any of these crimes, but just that we are massively under resourced at the moment.
"We want to make a difference and work with young people and stop them from being stigmatised."
One restaurant worker from Winchester Road who asked not to be named said: "There is almost one or two disturbances every night. Only the other day we had to call the police because we saw a youth holding a knife, showing it off to his friends."
A resident, who also wanted to remain anonymous, added: "We are suffering from gangs around here and I don't know where they are coming from. It is getting much worse.