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Blackstock Road shops call on police to tackle drug dealing

After incident in which three officers suffered injuries, online meeting is called by traders who fear crime is deterring customers

15 May, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Police in large numbers were called out to a brawl in Blackstock Road earlier this month

SHOPKEEPERS in the Blackstock Road area say street drug dealing and anti-social behaviour is frightening customers and residents, and have called on police to do more.

In the aftermath of a fight that left three police officers injured last week, a Zoom meeting was arranged by the Finsbury Park Muslim Welfare House, bringing police, shopkeepers, community leaders and politicians together to talk through problems on the street.

It is understood the incident, which drew scores of officers to Blackstock Road, was not related to drug dealing, but the police have referred themselves to the Independent Office for Police Conduct amid allegations of heavy-handedness.

Shopkeepers used the meeting to air concerns over a general lack of policing.

Mohammed Benali of Salam Butchers told the Tribune it was frustrating to see well-known drug dealers arrested, only to be released within a matter of days.

“There is a wider community here of Algerians, Somali, Italians and French,” he said. “We are all hard working and all respectful of each other. But there are a few people causing trouble and selling drugs. These people are known to the community and to the police. It’s frustrating to watch these people being arrested, but they’re back on the streets the next day. Take those people away and most of the problems are solved. We want to trust the police, but we need action now.”

It is understood the council is working with Hackney and Haringey Councils to bring in a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) for the area. If approved, it would be the first tri-borough PSPO in the country.

The Met’s neighbour­hood policing chief for Islington and Camden Neil Holyoak said he has tripled the number of officers in the area and taken £100,00 of drugs off the street since Christmas, but added the order would give his officers more powers to move people suspected of crime and anti-social behaviour in Blackstock Road.

“We know there are issues, particularly around drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and sexual harassment of women on Blackstock Road,” he said.

“For a successful prosecution, officers have to prove a suspect had drugs on them, and that they planned to deal those drugs. This is almost impossible unless you catch them with huge quantities.

“The CPS has a very high threshold for prosecution, and we can only act within the law as it stands.”

Another concern raised in the Zoom meeting was congregations of delivery riders on Blackstock Road, who shopkeepers say have been wrongly labelled as troublemakers.

Toufik Kacimi, CEO of the Muslim Welfare House on Seven Sisters Road, said space needs to be found for the delivery riders away from Blackstock Road.

“These are hardworking, honest people,” he said. “I’ve approached the council to create a space for the riders nearby, near Lidl where the pavement is wider.

“I’ve also asked that a mobile coffee stand be set up so riders and other members of the community have options other than standing on Blackstock Road.

“Apart from riders, a lot of the people you see gathering are living in small flats with six or seven others. They are outside because they need to socialise. We need to give them somewhere to go.”

Delivery rider Zakaria Gherabi said space should be found for riders to separate themselves from the troublemakers.

“If you see lots of riders all together, we are not a gang,” he said. “We are working, we have families and we face struggles. We come together to work, and because we are from the same country people think we are a gang. We need a safe space to wait while we work.”

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