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Market pays for security guards in wake of knife violence

New presence to 'act as a deterrent' to drug dealers in Camden Town

05 April, 2018 — By William McLennan

BUSINESSES are to pay for extra police officers and security guards in an attempt to tackle drug dealing that has blighted Camden Lock for decades.

A Camden Town business group and the owners of Camden Market have put their own money forward in the hope that increased security will deter people from buying drugs in the area. Competition for the lucrative drugs market has been linked by police to an increase in knife violence, which has risen in the borough at a faster rate than the rest of London.

Simon Pitkeathley, chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited (CTU), said the funding was a response to the repeated cuts to the Met Police’s budget. He said: “I don’t blame the council or the police for this. They are where they are. We just can’t sit by and do nothing. The problem isn’t going away. We feel that we have to try and do something to challenge it.”

Groups of young men offering to sell drugs have been a persistent presence in Camden High Street for at least 20 years, with police regularly launching high-profile but short-lived operations to stamp out the trade.

Mr Pitkeathley said that the new tactic is intended to act as a deterrent, with security guards focusing on collecting evidence rather than intervening physically with the dealers. The guards will be carrying “body-worn cameras” and radios, linked to the CCTV control room. He said: “Hopefully their presence will deter people from buying drugs, even if the dealers aren’t deterred.” The additional police officers will be paid for by Market Tech, which owns vast swathes of NW1, and Camden Council.

Simon Pitkeathley

The security guards will be funded by CTU. They start work next week and will be gradually increasing their presence, with up to eight security guards patrolling. Mr Pitkeathley said: “We will be constantly reviewing it. If in a year’s time the drug dealers are all gone, we will be pleased and say that was a success. If they are still there, we will have to think about what to do next.”

The council launched a poster campaign last month asking recreational drug users who visit Camden to consider the wider social impacts of the supply chain, including “the gang violence and knife crime that is fuelled by drug sales and supply”.

The number of knife victims in Camden aged 25 and under nearly doubled to 94 in 2017. Detective Sergeant ­Caroline Haines told Camden Council last month that the rise was “primarily but not exclusively linked to internal gang disputes and rivalry,” adding that it was a “constantly changing intelligence picture”.

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