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Police days off are cancelled to carry out extra patrols in Islington

Increase in blatant drug-dealing and knife crime in Highbury, as mother tells meeting she fears for her sons

08 June, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Inspector Steve Murfin, far left, the Rev Stephen Coles and Cllr Andy Hull, far right

POLICE officers are having their days off cancelled to carry out extra patrols in the borough, it has been revealed.

Islington’s Neighbourhoods Inspector Steve Murfin told concerned residents this revealing detail after they reported a recent rise in blatant drug-dealing and knife crime around Blackstock Road in Highbury.

It was revealed this week that the Met Police owes its officers across London 189,000 rest days from last year.

A worried mother told a packed community meeting on Monday that she was fearful of her sons playing football in the streets from Gillespie Road to Finsbury Park station – known locally as the Blackstock Road Triangle.

“Only a week ago, my friend’s husband saw two boys chasing somebody at quarter to seven past Arsenal tube with a knife that big, chasing somebody into a garden,” she said at the meeting at St Thomas’s Church, in Monsell Road. “My kids come out of the tube at that time. My sons should be allowed to roam the area and play football. They are young African Caribbean-descendant sons and I’m scared.”

Insp Murfin replied: “I fully understand that. Ultimately, you should be able to walk around any time of the day or night safely. That is something we will strive to do always.

“One of the things that has happened recently is that officers have had their days off cancelled, which is going to have a longer-term impact as those days have to be paid back.

“But at the moment, officers are having regular days off cancelled to do extra patrols to try and reassure you. Every night there are 15 officers having their days off cancelled to try and patrol this borough to make it safer.”

He said two recent stabbings in Blackstock Road were not linked to Islington, but instead were from other boroughs.

Expressing concerns, another resident said: “If you sit and watch for an hour, you’ll see drug deals happening. It’s the same people, the same cars.”

Detailing action taken since issues were raised in April, police and the Town Hall said an address in Stroud Green Road had been raided, with a large amount of Class A drugs found and three people arrested.

The address was linked to drug-dealing in Finsbury Park and surrounding areas.

Police said a Notice Seeking Possession has been served to evict a tenant in one local street who is “attracting drug-dealing and related crime and ASB [anti-social behaviour] in the area”.

There has also been a “significant” increase in stop-and-searches.

A new CCTV camera is to be installed at the junction of Blackstock Road, Highbury Park, Gillespie Road and Mountgrove Road. Street lighting is shortly to be upgraded to LED standard, to make the area “brighter”.

Council community safety chief and councillor for Highbury West ward Andy Hull said: “I’ve never seen the criminal justice system I’ve spent the last 15 years working in so stretched. They’ve lost 300 officers alone in Islington since 2010.

“Probation is run down, the courts are run down, the council has lost half of its money as well. It’s not an excuse but it does make it very difficult. I’ve never seen the police this stretched. It’s ludicrous how thin they are stretched right now.”

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