Police call for host of safety improvements at Finsbury Park after killing of barmaid Iuliana Tudos
- Credit: Archant
Police have urged Haringey Council to make a host of safety improvements to Finsbury Park following the killing of barmaid Iuliana Tudos.
The Gazette understands the recommendations include locking the park at night, and the town hall is now considering what steps to take.
Officers carried out the Environmental Visual Audit in February, when they were joined by Haringey’s anti-social behaviour team and councillors from both Haringey and Islington.
It followed widespread calls for increased security in the wake of Iuliana’s death. The 22-year-old was stabbed in the park after finishing her shift at Camden pub The World’s End at 8pm on Christmas Eve.
Her body was found on December 27 near the softball pitches by a friend who was retracing the route to her home in Upper Tollington Park. Kasim Lewis, of Friern Barnet, is set to go on trial for murder at the Old Bailey next month.
Following her death, Iuliana’s friends demanded Haringey start locking the gates after dark, while a separate petition calling for better lighting, CCTV and more wardens received more than 6,000 signatures.
The heightened concern following the high-profile case was coupled with ongoing complaints about a gradual increase in the number of drug dealers operating in the park.
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Haringey Council said in response to the petition that it had no plans to close the gates, but said it would “work with colleagues” to implement any changes found to be necessary following a separate safety review, which started last year.
The February audit report, written by the Met’s Designing Out Crime team, was handed over to the council last month.
And while the findings haven’t been published, police indicated at a meeting hosted by the Friends of Finsbury Park that the recommendations also included improving the boundary fences, redesigning bins to prevent drug and weapon storage and installing better lighting.
Harringay ward officer Ruth Halkon told the Gazette this week: “A report was generated asking Haringey to take on board our recommendations. [Locking the park at night] was one of the options being discussed.”
At the same meeting in March, neighbours of the park raised a host of concerns. They said dealers openly selling drugs in the park had the “upper hand” on the under-staffed police.
A lack of staff and police presence was also said to be causing people to avoid using the park at night, as was the absence of lighting.
On the lack of police presence, Pc Halkon defended the force. She said: “I’m part of a team covering Harringay ward with another Pc, a PCSO and a Sgt.
“We also get help from the council’s community partnership team and we are working closely with the public in terms of seeing what the issues are. We have carried out five planned operations in the last 18 months where we have had resources from other wards in Haringey, and made a number of arrests.
“We also have British Transport Police down there by the station as well.”
Pc Halkon said she hadn’t heard about instances of “gang violence against rough sleepers in the park” which was also reported at the meeting. She said police and the council worked with charities to offer support to the growing number of people setting up tents.
The Friends of Finsbury Park group is also conducting its own consultation on safety, which launched last week.
Chair Simon Hunt told the Gazette most people who have responded so far do want the park closed at night, but that the issue was with people needing access to the sports facilities.
“Our compromise would be to close the park at 10pm,” he said. “That way people can still use the facilities in the evening.
“But it seems to be the case that drug dealing has become less of a covert operation and no one is even worried about being seen.
“There’s no police presence. They are happy to go in if they are called there but otherwise they don’t. And the council is usually reactive rather than proactive.”
A Haringey Council spokeswoman said: “Park security and maintenance is a key focus for the council, including investing income from events in maintenance, upkeep and improvements.
“We recognise local residents’ concerns about safety in Finsbury Park and are currently considering what steps we could take to further improve security, including exploring the measures suggested by the police.”
Homeless support group Streets Kitchen is opposed to Finsbury Park being locked, saying it would impact the people who sleep there.
Founder Jon Glackin, who runs the Nag’s Head Solidarity Centre nearby in Seven Sisters Road, told the Gazette he’s known nights where up to 70 people sleep in the park in tents or on benches. Should the gates be closed and the fences be repaired, they would be left on the streets instead.
Jon said: “We asked everybody [in the solidarity centre] what they thought about it and there was a resounding ‘no’.
“Some people have nowhere to go, you know.
“The homeless will always suffer and it’s a public space, so should be kept public.”
He said every Friday Streets Kitchen cooks for people in the park, and there are regularly 30 to 40 people who come.
The issues with crime could be solved by the police, or by putting cameras in, he believes – closing the park at night won’t solve anything.