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‘Lock up this drug-plagued park at night’

Drug-taking and discarded syringes leave residents scared to go into beautiful Holloway Road gardens

31 August, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Residents Ann, Michelle, Val Hammond and Louise with daughter Avery: ‘Children are at risk’

RESIDENTS who have had syringes stick to their shoes while walking in a park plagued by drug use are demanding it is locked up at night.

Val Hammond, who lives close to the gardens of St Mary Magdalene Church, in Holloway Road, said she finds empty syringes – presumably used for drugs – dotted around the park almost every day.

“We’ve spent the whole of summer dealing with this,” she said. “We’ve seen so much anti-social behaviour it’s got to the point that locals will not go into the park because we get threatened by those taking and dealing drugs.”

She said she worried about the safety of children attending the playschool at St Mary Magdalene Church.

“There are lots of children who play in the park. They can pick up the needles and they’re at risk of getting HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases,” she added.

Ms Hammond said she was left waiting for hours trying to get through to police and the anti-social behaviour team at the Town Hall when reporting the empty syringes.

“We really need the park locked at night. It’s going to deter people from coming in and using the park as a space to take drugs. They upped the police patrol in response to our complaints, but the council need to do more,” she said.

Another resident, who did not wish to give her name, said people were using the park at night as a place to defecate after being out in nearby Upper Street.

She said: “How is it that these beautiful Georgian gardens have turned into a dangerous, drug-taking toilet? It’s not right. There’s piles of needles on the floor. It’s become impossible to live here. I’m thinking of moving.”

A small section of fencing around the gardens, which connect Holloway Road to Liverpool Road, was removed a few years ago, leaving the garden open to Holloway Road.

Sarah McDonald, associate vicar at St Mary Magdalene, joined calls for the park to be locked up at night but said hedges should be cut back, with better lighting, to make the park safer.

“I feel uncomfortable walking through the park with my dog at night,” she said.

“My neighbour found a syringe sticking out of his shoe the other day. To what extent is this [anti-social behaviour] a result of cuts?

“We want everyone to be welcome in the park. The reality is this is a problem. Something needs to be done. I feel terrible for the council workers who have to clean up the park. I understand the council are dealing with huge cuts and they’re under a lot of pressure.”

Islington environment chief Councillor Claudia Webbe acknowledged there had been issues with anti-social behaviour in the park, but said government cuts meant it could not be locked up without leaving another open at night.

“The council’s parks service and community safety team are working in partnership with police to try to resolve this. The outreach substance use service and St Mungo’s homeless outreach team are also visiting the park frequently.

“Anti-social behaviour occurs across the borough, including in a number of parks. We understand that residents are concerned about this. The list of locked parks is kept under review, and if there is an ongoing need to lock St Mary Magdalene’s Gardens over another park we will look to implement this.”

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