CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Bong squad shuts down three shops in high street crackdown

Police tell traders to stop ‘glamorising’ drug use with sale of grinders and cocaine kits

14 March, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Sgt Dave Hodges: ‘Closing shops that glamorise drugs is a new tactic to show Camden Town is not drug friendly’

POLICE took unprecedented action in temporarily closing three shops in Camden Town this week over the sale of drug paraphernalia and alleged anti-social behaviour.

Sergeant Dave Hodges said the sale of the items, including bongs, grinders and cocaine kits, makes people think drugs are “accepted in Camden Town”. The latest shops to have the shutters come down join two other similarly closed since the new approach was initiated by police last month.

Sgt Hodges, who leads three policing wards, said: “Closing shops that glamorise illegal drugs is a new tactic to show that Camden Town is not a ‘drug friendly’ area any more.”

However, one shopworker said it was up to police to drive drug dealers off the street. More communication was need­ed over what shops can and can’t sell, he added. Arif Asif works at a shop unconnected to the closures but witnessed the police crackdown on Monday.

He told the New Journal: “It’s the police’s job to take the drug dealers off the streets, it’s not every individual shop’s. On top of that, to help the police, everyone deserves a proper explanation, like ‘this is illegal’ or ‘this is encouraging drug dealers’.”

The manager at one closed tourist shop said the paraphernalia side of his store was managed by another person. No illegal drugs have been found at any of the stores.

As reported in the New Journal last year, Camden’s new police inspector, Richard Berns, who signed off this week’s orders, warned that shops selling cannabis paraphernalia make the task of driving out the famous drugs market harder.

This week, he tweeted photographs of cannabis lollies and bongs, saying: “Is it any wonder why Camden Town has so many drug dealers when shops like this portray such a friendly image of drugs? “No more. From now on, these ‘shops’ will be closed down!”

Through civil action, police can secure a 24-hour shop closure before it is dealt with at magistrates’ court, which can choose to reopen the shop or continue the closure for a maximum of three months. Of the two previous stores ordered to close, one was shut for a further 28 days and the other for two months.

One is appealing against the closure at the crown court, according to Sgt Hodges. This week’s stores were each closed for three months, to make changes, including in­stalling CCTV and alterations to stock.

Sgt Hodges said: “The district judge agreed with all the police points, namely that the stores are contributing to the negative drugs culture in the area and the associated ASB [anti-social behaviour].”

The shops had been visited several times by police, trading standards and immigration officers and given warnings, said Sgt Hodges.

“They are correct in that they say it is the police’s job to take drug dealers off the street, which we did through Operation Salmson, which took 41 drug dealers off the street for a number of years,” said Sgt Hodges. “My neighbourhood team have continued that work by taking knives and drugs off the street on a daily basis.”

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