Terror as youth gangs take over revamped park

A PARK in Kentish Town designed to give young people space to play has been taken over by yobs and drug dealers, according to residents

Ben McPartland

A PARK in Kentish Town designed to give young people space to play has been taken over by yobs and drug dealers, according to residents.

Neighbours of Cantelowes Park on Camden Road are fed up with youths causing trouble and drug dealers selling crack within yards of young children.

Recently iron bars, broken bottles and sticks were left strewn across the streets after two gangs of youths clashed on a Sunday night.

Police arrived in the nick of time before anyone was seriously hurt but residents are demanding permanent supervision of the area.

Annie Mullins from Camden Mews said: "This park is an example of an initiative designed to divert the youth into more constructive activities but actually can end up causing a great deal more difficulties and distress in the local community because it is not managed properly.

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"At the least we want someone responsible and in authority to monitor the situation all the time."

Ms Mullins witnessed the chaos on Sunday April 27 when the youths squared up to each other.

It is thought the running battles started after one group of youths began taunting footballers who were playing on the all-weather pitch.

Ms Mullins said: "The police arrived but we saw the array of bottles, bars and sticks that were dropped. There were kids running everywhere. The police had many of them in handcuffs but it was alarming to see.

"It was more than intimidating when you see the weapons everywhere. What is it going to take for them to do something about it?"

The youths were back congregating last Sunday night and Cantelowes resident Mandy Martinez says it is time the council took better control of the park.

She said: "There is no one to disperse these youths and when they finish playing football or whatever they gather around and jump on cars, fight and cause trouble and it gets a bit scary.

"Camden Council has a responsibility to see nothing like this happens.

"From what I can see there is no security there at all, there is no sense of the park being managed after it has closed. If this happens every Sunday it will end in someone getting stabbed.

"You can spend millions of pounds on a park but you really have to back it up with some risk assessments."

Drug dealers have also been seen operating openly in the park, according to the locals.

"They all come up on the 29 bus because it is free and they cannot deal in Camden Town anymore. Druggies are shooting up in back gardens and doorways around here. It is awful."

Camden Council insists the open space has been a success since a £1.5million facelift last year, including a new skate park which has hosted international skateboarding competitions.

"We take the safety of park users extremely seriously - a park attendant is on duty until 9pm every day in both summer and winter, and we greatly appreciate the help of residents in reporting problems to us when they arise," said a spokesman.

"An investigation into Cantelowes Gardens was launched when we received reports that dealing may be taking place in the park. Our excellent relationship with the police and other community safety partners meant that we could identify an individual who already has an ASBO.

"The park's security team and the police are monitoring the situation so that appropriate action can be taken if there is any suspected dealing or antisocial behaviour takes place."

The council also reports antisocial behaviour in parks across the borough has been falling, with a 52 per cent fall in reported incidents. Council figures also suggest drug activity has fallen by 62 per cent.

"We are not complacent and will keep working hard together with residents and the police to make sure our parks are pleasant spaces for everyone to enjoy," added the spokesman.