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Camden News - By PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 17 April 2008
Tony Brooks
Tony Brooks
‘We’re slowly smashing drug market’ – Town Hall

One year after pledge to tackle problem, figures show progress

ONE-THOUSAND drug deals were caught on camera in Camden Town last year and crack and heroin is as cheap and plentiful as ever – but the council’s crime chiefs believe that their high-profile battle against drugs is on the brink of a breakthrough.
Users have told the New Journal that heroin and crack are still on sale for £10 a hit 12 months after council press releases boasted of a “SUPER POLICE FORCE TO SMASH DRUGS MARKET IN CAMDEN TOWN” – figures supported by the testimony of undercover police who bought drugs to snare a prominent dealer being sentenced today (Thursday).
And the council’s CCTV monitors recorded 1,000 drug deals from just 19 cameras placed in nine key streets around Camden Road and Camden High Street in the last year, despite the heaviest police presence the area has ever seen.
But this represents a fall of over a quarter from the year before, according to the council’s community safety chief Tony Brooks.
He said: “Anything we do at a local level is not going to stop someone in Afghanistan planting poppy and selling it to someone who sells it on to London. But I think the evidence shows that we have made fairly good progress. I say fairly good because it only takes someone to walk down the street and be offered cannabis – it may only be once, whereas two years ago it would have been 15 times – but that once still has an impact on them. Crime in Camden Town has fallen by 20 per cent, and that is excellent for residents and businesses.”
Success, which Mr Brooks defines as making it possible to walk from Camden Town Tube station to Camden Lock without seeing visible drug-dealing, is “a lot closer than what it was two or three years ago”.
He said: “We’re probably at that tipping point now where we’re close to the top and about to start coming down the other side, as we were at King’s Cross.
“Camden Town has proved to be a lot more complex and far harder to actually tackle. The drug market around Camden Town is far bigger than it ever was in King’s Cross.”
Measuring success against drugs is notoriously difficult. Drug offences in Camden Town have shot up over the past year, mainly because of a change of heart by senior police over issuing cannabis warnings.
But drug charities use the price of drugs to measure supply, and the price in Camden has stayed at or below the national average.
“A bag (of heroin) is £10 – it has been for a while,” one user near Camden Road told the New Journal in March. “Everything is 10, white (crack cocaine), brown (heroin).”
And the evidence is supported by undercover test purchase officers, who were part of a sting which recently celebrated the convictions of a gang of eight dealers led by “untouchable” ringleader, Artley Henry, known in the Camden Town drug markets as ‘Frostie’, who will be sentenced today (Thursday).
When police raided the Regent’s Park safehouse where Henry’s gang worked last year, they found a cottage industry. The floors were strewn with wraps of heroin and crack cocaine and a lump of crack on a windowsill being cut up for sale.
The whole consignment, which detectives believe was a day’s supply for the Camden Road network, was worth £3,000 on the street.
During the trial the test purchase officers, who buy drugs on camera as evidence to use against dealers, testified to the price of doses of heroin and crack cocaine in Camden Town, and £10 was the standard for both.
Harry Shapiro, director of communications at Drugscope, the national research centre on illegal drugs which compiles an annual survey on prices, said: “Economists would say that a fall in the price of drugs indicates an increase in supply and economists would probably be right.”
He added: “Short-term gains from enforcement can be difficult to sustain and often you will simply find that there is displacement. Clearly if you have cleared dealers out of an area then the residents and shopkeepers in that area will be pleased. But any enforcement activity is always going to be a damage limitation exercise.
“If there was some magic bullet it would have been used long ago.”

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