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Cambridge Circus drug market ‘out of control’

Authorities are ‘powerless to act’, say residents on estates who want to bring in round-the-clock security guards

18 January, 2019

Cambridge Circus ‘has become infamous now for the open drug dealing’. Photo: Txllxt TxllxT

AN open and “out of control” drug market at Cambridge Circus is spilling into housing estates, according to residents who are looking to hire 24/7 security guards.

Tenants of Vale Royal House in Charing Cross Road have warned of a massive increase in trouble and reported a knife brawl on the council estate this week. Residents told the Extra that drug-taking and seedy sexual activity in the stairwells was now common and there had been three major fires, including one that forced the evacuation of the whole 170-flat estate late last year.

They say police, council and the “failing” and soon-to-be-axed management company CityWest Homes appear powerless to stop the problem.

Ljubisa Boskovic, who set up a residents’ group at the Vale Royal, said his residents’ association was looking at hiring a round-the-clock security guard, funded by a rooftop phone mast.

He said: “Cambridge Circus has become infamous now for the open drug dealing. It’s always been a problem, but now it is hardcore. It’s spice and the all the nasty stuff. They are off their heads and causing havoc.” He added: “And there’s been a big increase of people coming into the estate. You see all kinds of paraphernalia now.

“It’s very unpleasant, they are off their heads and you never know how people are going to react. There have been three fires, the whole block has been evacuated. There was a fight with knives this week.”

He said: “We have a concierge two days a week. It costs £21,000 and it comes from the money we get from having a phone mast. It seems like a lot of money. We are looking at whether we can get someone in every day, that is what we need.”

Residents said they are often “tail-gated” into the block through the electric doors. One woman had been mugged in the lift just before Christmas, residents said.

Mr Boskovic said complaints to CityWest Homes had fallen on deaf ears and pre-election promises from politicians had not been fulfilled.

“They were enthusiastic before the election,” he said. “On the bigger issue, stakeholders aren’t willing to deal with it.

“It is also true that these people are unfortunate souls. They need help, but also the residents need help as they are really worried.”

Nina Anderson, who has an elderly relative on the estate, said there were daily queues of people outside the entrances trying to get into the block. Many were sleeping in the upper floor corridors.

She said: “There has been constant dialogue between the tenants and local councillors, CityWest Homes [Westminster Council’s housing management company] and the police; and yet nothing is being done to tackle the issue. They have a guard on Friday and Saturday nights, but we need one every day of the week. We need 24/7 patrolling.”

Westminster’s Labour group has said tenants and residents must be given greater powers when the CityWest Homes management body is scrapped, to force the council to act on concerns.

Labour housing spokesman, West End ward councillor Pancho Lewis, said: “In the past, many previously-active residents simply gave up after making regular requests for action which were routinely ignored or refused by CityWest Homes.

“We also want to see the council reopen estate offices so that residents can get regular, direct access to housing officers and build up a good working relationship with them. This will give a massive boost to effective and real consultation.”

In October Westminster’s cabinet made the decision to bring the management of social housing back into the council on April 1.

Housing chief, Cllr Andrew Smith, said: “Residents’ associations will play an important part in that listening programme and we are actively working to support them due to the crucial role they play.

“We’re putting local people first and over the last three months we’ve spoken to hundreds of residents and in the coming months we will speak to hundreds more.”

The council has asked for residents to respond to its latest “listening programme” and to provide feedback at a series of events. For more details see the council’s website.

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