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Gang police: rise in stabbings due to battle for ‘lucrative’ Camden Town drug market

Stable drug trade has been disrupted by "re-branded" gangs in past year

31 January, 2018 — By William McLennan

DI Lexton Jones: sharp rise in violence in past 12 months 

Competition for control of the Camden Town drugs trade is behind a sharp rise in the number of young men being stabbed, according to the detective responsible for tackling gang crime in the borough.

Detective Inspector Will Lexton-Jones said that the “extremely lucrative” market had been stable for many years but had been disrupted within the last year when some of the established gangs “rebranded” and muscled in on rival territories.

It is understood that a resurgent gang based in Agar Grove is among those responsible.

The use of social media by gangs to taunt their rivals is also believed to have led to a rise in retaliatory attacks.

Three young men have needed hospital treatment for stab wounds following separate attacks within five days.

An 18-year-old took himself to hospital after being stabbed in Upper Woburn Place, near Euston Road, on Monday night.

Shortly before midnight on Sunday, another 18-year-old was set upon in Grafton Road, Gospel Oak, and stabbed in the chest, leg and arm by two assailants who had jump­ed out of the back of a black VW Passat.

Last Wednesday night, a 27-year-old man was stabbed in Bayham Street, Camden Town, before collapsing on the pavement outside bookmakers William Hill in Camden Road. All three are said to have received “non-life threatening” injuries.

One of the latest attacks in Camden Town last week

DI Lexton-Jones said that the number of gangs or gang members had not increased, but they had become more violent.

Speaking at a public meeting at Pax Lodge, off Lyndhurst Road, Hampstead, on Tuesday night, he said: “What we have seen in Camden is some of the gangs, who aren’t necessarily new but have rebranded and changed, have disrupted what was quite a stable drugs market.

“They are competing over an extremely lucrative drugs market in Camden Lock, Camden High Street.”

He added: “It’s less why the violence is so high now, but more why it wasn’t so high before and what’s changed.”

When identifying gangs, DI Lexton-Jones said his unit applied a statutory definition, which included “their own self-determination, their hierarchy, their business interests and their rivalries”.

In the past 12 months there have been 556 knife crime offences in Camden, compared to 549 in Islington, 609 in Westminster and 700 in Brent.

He said: “Camden is relatively low on volume compared to those other similar areas. What is different is those areas have had an incremental increase over quite a long period, whereas Camden has had a far sharper increase more recently.”

He acknowledged that the figures were “fairly bleak”, but added: “But I think it’s important to be honest before we start talking about solutions, to understand where we are.”

He said: “It’s important to acknowledge that there’s an issue, but it’s not an issue that is unique to Camden, it is national issue.

“I also think we have gone past the peak of this issue and in the past few months, we have started to see both the knife violence and the knife crime as a whole start to taper off and reduce.”

Police are working with Camden Council to try to divert youngsters away from gangs and knife crime, he said.

“While we are in a difficult position we need to ensure our enforcement practices are effective. The medium- to long-term strategy ultimately is understanding why this young person picked up a knife in the first place, where on their life arc that happened and where we should have intervened and where we can intervene.”

Police were also looking at people “who are indicating to us that they might go down that road, so we are not standing here in one year, two years or five years with the same problem”.

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