Worst ever! Police told of ‘horrendous’ summer of crime at Camden Town park
Warnings that frustration with anti-social behaviour could lead to vigilante action in absence of officers
13 September, 2018 — By William McLennan
The Castlehaven Open Space in Camden Town
CRIME and anti-social behaviour is said to have reached unprecedented levels at a Camden Town park, leading the head of a community association to express concerns that people will be driven to “vigilante” action.
Eleanor Botwright, chief executive of the Castlehaven Community Centre, confronted Camden’s most senior police officer with her fears after the “most horrendous summer” at Castlehaven Open Space.
She told Borough Commander Iain Raphael: “We are overwhelmed, we just can’t go on like this. We’ve had open drug dealing and abuse, people sitting on our mound openly smoking crack pipes. We’ve had urination, defecation. We’ve had dog attacks.”
She appealed to Dr Raphael during a Camden Safer Neighbourhood Board meeting at Somers Town Community Centre on Thursday night.
Ms Botwright, who was awarded an MBE in 2017 for her services to the community over more than three decades, said that security measures introduced by businesses in Camden Town pushed the problem off the high street into neighbouring residential areas.
“The market have got their CCTV cameras,” she said. “Camden Town Unlimited have got their security guards. We are just outside the boundary of all of that. All of those security shooing people off the high street are shooing them directly into our gardens. Far from benefiting us, it is actually compounding the problem, significantly.”
She added: “The other problem is that people are getting angry and I’m bothered that there is going to be some kind of vigilante response. The place is appalling.”
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Botwright told the New Journal: “I’ve been here for 33 years and it’s the worst summer we have ever experienced. Nothing compares. The whole area looks hostile, feels hostile, there’s an underlying anger and sense of neglect that manifests in the appearance.”
Dr Raphael said the solution would be “multi-faceted”. He told the meeting that the overall number of crimes reported in the past 12 months had increased by 3,000 offences, compared to the previous year.
However, he said he had been “turning the tide” since he took over in April. Dr Raphael said there had been a “massive reduction” in moped crime, with 712 offences recorded in July 2017, and just 83 in July this year.
Asked if he felt police had sufficient resources, following a £600million cut to the Met’s budget, Dr Raphael said: “I will always do the very best I have with the officers and numbers we have. If someone suddenly wants to give me a hundred or a thousand extra officers, you are absolutely right, of course we could do more. I have to operate within the framework I have.”
Labour councillor Pat Callaghan told the meeting that crime levels were at “the worst I’ve ever seen us go through because we haven’t got enough police”.