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Highbury West crime meeting hears how ‘crack house’ closure has made area safer

PUBLISHED: 15:30 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:01 20 July 2018

'Smoke crack worship Satan': The message scrawled on the wall of the Romilly Road house when police entered. Picture: Cllr Andy Hull

'Smoke crack worship Satan': The message scrawled on the wall of the Romilly Road house when police entered. Picture: Cllr Andy Hull

Archant

Violent crime in Finsbury Park has fallen since police raided a drug den surrounded by signs telling the long arm of the law to “keep out”.

Police outside the crack house.Police outside the crack house.

The now boarded-up flat in Romilly Road, immediately next door to Ambler Road’s famous topiary elephants, was discussed at a community meeting on Tuesday held in St Thomas The Apostle church.

Anti-social behaviour in the Blackstock Triangle area topped the agenda, while people also heard about Wireless Festival, drug taking in Gillespie Park, and the homeless people under the bridge in Finsbury Park.

A neighbour to the crack house told the Gazette: “There was a presence and it was a bad presence.

“The people who lived above were terrorised and threatened – we have not seen them for ages.

A 'warning' sign outside the crack house.A 'warning' sign outside the crack house.

“But since they have left and it’s calmed down. The street is almost back to normal.”

Relative normality returned to the area after cops raided the ground floor flat, executing a drugs warrant and making an arrest.

They have since secured a closure order on the property, and its door and windows are temporarily boarded up.

Contacted this week, Scotland Yard was unable to provide any further details on the fate of the person arrested.

Panel members Cllrs Roulin Khondoker and Andy Hull with Rev Stephen Coles taking questions from the floor at the Highbury West neighbourhood policing meeting. Picture: Polly HancockPanel members Cllrs Roulin Khondoker and Andy Hull with Rev Stephen Coles taking questions from the floor at the Highbury West neighbourhood policing meeting. Picture: Polly Hancock

When cops entered the building, a council flat run by Partners for Improvement in Islington (PFI), they discovered “smoke crack worship Satan” was written on the wall. PFI now intends to make a possession application to the High Court after a seven-day notice, and will also make changes to the communal garden area, where there have been reports of criminal activity.

Attendees also raised concerns about who might move into the property next, fearing a repeat scenario.

But Philippa Wooldridge, PFI’s anti-social behaviour team leader, said: “We can ask the council to do a sensitive let, where the council can see if there has been any record at all of anti-social behaviour.”

A young child who lives nearby told the Gazette this week: “I kept seeing this man in a black car and I saw two of them giving something to him – I think they were selling drugs.”

The Highbury West neighbourhood policing meeting at St Thomas's Church. Picture: Polly HancockThe Highbury West neighbourhood policing meeting at St Thomas's Church. Picture: Polly Hancock

Her mother added: “Which is not very nice to see when you’re little.

“My daughter was also threatened by one of the people who lived next door – he was following her down the road and muttering ‘snitch’.”

Mel Massey, who lives a few doors down from the offending property, said: “It was so chaotic. I got abused by one of the guys who came here to buy drugs because I looked at him. He really frightened me.

“It’s quite scandalous because the guy who lives above has been complaining for about 18 months.”

Pc Alexanda Cain, dedicated ward officer, taking questions from the floor. Picture: Polly HancockPc Alexanda Cain, dedicated ward officer, taking questions from the floor. Picture: Polly Hancock

But she added: “The police have been superb and [Islington crime chief and ward councillor] Andy Hull really got things moving, it was a community effort. We got it closed down, so I’m very happy.”

Cllr Hull (Lab, Highbury West) said: “The crack house was causing real problems.

“Thanks to residents reporting specific crimes and sharing vital community intelligence, the police, the council and Partners were able to team up effectively and get the place shut down.”

At the meeting people also complained drug abuse in Gillespie Park was making it an unsafe environment for families.

There was an arrest made at a drug den on Romilly Road. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyThere was an arrest made at a drug den on Romilly Road. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

One woman said: “I have a daughter and son who use the park regularly and none of us have encountered police.

“We see men urinating, crack taking and the actual transactions.”

Pc Alexanda Cain said: “I have personally set and increased patrols on that walkway.”

He added borough commander Det Ch Supt Iain Raphael had vowed to work more closely with Hackney and Haringey to tackle drug-related offences around the three-way border.

The topiary elephants next door to the boarded-up crack den. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyThe topiary elephants next door to the boarded-up crack den. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Homeless people living under the bridge in Stroud Green Road, by Finsbury Park station, were another topic of discussion.

Before Christmas the Gazette told the stories of two women, Blue and K, who had been sleeping under the bridge for more than a year.

They had backgrounds of bereavement, domestic violence and missing paperwork thanks in part to ambiguity around which local authority was supposed to be helping them. After we got involved, both were offered housing.

Rev Stephen Coals said: “I am fascinated by the people under the bridge but they actually obstruct the pavement.”

Another attendee asked what City North, the £220m development by the station, made of its homeless neighbours. They said: “We have got City North going up there which is an absolute blight on this area.” Cllr Hull revealed six out of 25 permanent rough sleepers in Islington had been housed in the last 18 months.

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