CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Police say bong shops are ‘free advertising’ for Camden Town drug dealers

Sarcastic Twitter users mock police for small cannabis confiscation

23 November, 2018 — By Tom Foot

A NEW police inspector believes it is possible to drive out the famous drugs market in Camden Town but warns tourist shops selling cannabis paraphernalia will make the task harder.

Richard Berns joined an inspection of businesses in the area on Friday, warning that the sale of grinders and bongs was “to a dealer, free advertising”.

He said: “The overt selling of this drug paraphernalia makes the statement that drugs are still OK in Camden Town. To an unknowing tourist, it suggests it’s legal.”

The operation involved police, council trading standards officers and business group Camden Town Unlimited “security wardens”, as well as sniffer dogs funded by Lab Tech, the landowner of nearby markets.

Only one arrest was made – for an immigration issue, rather than a drugs offence. Trading standards confiscated a batch of vaping sticks that the council officer said was in breach of regulations.

Inspector Berns told the New Journal: “My view is that illegal drugs are already regulated by being just that, illegal. The government has said no to legalisation. Society has said no. My job is to enforce the law. We don’t have to put up with crime.”

No illegal drugs were found in the tourist shops visited by police and the council on Friday.

Inspector Berns said Camden police arrested 41 drug dealers last month in a move that had “reduced drug dealing in the area substantially”, adding: “We haven’t removed the demand and the demand is huge. How do we stop that? I think we need to change the look and feel of Camden.”

The latest action follows a raid on the Peckwater estate in Kentish Town last week – reported in last week’s New Journal – which led to the discovery of drugs and a large number of bank notes.

Last month Labour cabinet councillor Abdul Hai called for people to actively say no to drug dealers on the high street, rather than walking past with their heads down.

Camden police’s ­Twitter account was deluged with sarcastic comments on Sunday after posting a photo of a small bag of cannabis that had been confiscated. One response suggested the street value of the seizure would have been 25p. The post was later deleted.

Recent campaigns, however, have been aimed at telling recreational drug users that they are helping to fuel knife crime by creating the demand for markets that can turn violent.

Inspector Berns said: “Crime in Camden Town is actually lower than in Holborn and Bloomsbury. On paper it is not the busiest ward, it’s the third. I believe this is partly because people don’t always report it – they say ‘oh that’s Camden Town’.”

He added: “I would urge anyone who sees crime happening to call 999. “It is not acceptable and even if our response teams cannot get to it there and then, reporting it gives us an accurate picture of what is happening and when. We will then target these locations with proactive work.”

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