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Town Hall: Public should say NO to drug dealers in Camden Town

Council says people should not make dealers feel welcome by walking by with their heads down

08 November, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Abdul Hai says residents should join council’s war on drugs

THE public should stop walking past dealers in Camden High Street with their heads down, and instead actively tell them that they don’t want to buy drugs.

This is the call from one of the Town Hall’s most senior councillors who says he wants to change the “vibe” in Camden Town. Abdul Hai, Labour’s youth services supremo, said he did not care if the area had a historic – and international – reputation as somewhere to buy recreational drugs.

Asked how his idea might work, that civilians should take more of a role in the council’s war on drugs, his face turned to a steely glare as he told the New Journal: “When you are offered drugs as you walk by, you say ‘no, I don’t want to buy drugs’.”

Cllr Hai said he did not want members of the public to risk their own personal safety with more escalated confrontations with the dealers pushing drugs around the High Street and Camden Lock, but he said: “If this was happening in the Westfield shopping centre, or say if we were in Chelsea, and somebody was offering drugs on the street, I think people would do something about it. They’d say ‘this isn’t right’. In Camden, people walk on. The police, the council and businesses can work to try and stop this, but members of the public can help by making them know they are not wanted.”

Cllr Hai was talking to the New Journal after making similar comments at last week’s Town Hall cabinet meeting where top-ranked councillors were discussing the findings of a taskforce which found a link between drug dealing and knife crime.

Camden has already used ‘guilt trip’ posters on bus stops, linking recreational drug use with human slavery cases and organised crime, in a bid to show the consumer as part of the problem. Police, meanwhile, have tried to stop shops selling drug paraphernalia, such as bongs and “wacky backy tins”.

Cllr Hai said: “We have to show the dealers are not welcome, make it uncomfortable for them.”

Council leader Georgia Gould and community safety chief Councillor Nadia Shah have already publicly said they have never taken drugs themselves. Cllr Hai said he would “rather not answer that question, either way”.

The New Journal asked Cllr Hai whether Camden’s famed artistic heritage – such as the famous music made here – had been partly fuelled on drugs or a reputation for drugs, and what he thought of the area’s guidebook bohemia which brought tourists and trade to the area in a similar way people visit some quarters of Amsterdam.

“Look, this is about do you want to push your child in a buggy down the street and be offered drugs,” he said. “You don’t have to have drugs for Camden Town to be a nice place to come and visit. “I don’t care if it’s always been like this, that’s not a reason to give up. You have to change the vibe.”

He also rejected the often whispered suggestion that some businesses could benefit from people being brought into the area by the chance to buy drugs. “This isn’t only about class C drugs now,” said Cllr Hai, who works for the developers of Camden Market in his professional life. “We can have a debate, for and against, the legalisation of cannabis and see what other countries have done, but, depending what time of day it is, we are talking about class A and class B drugs, and this has been partly fuelling the knife crime we have seen.”

Camden’s war on drugs saw police and council officials raid the homes of suspected dealers last month, but days later dealers – or skankers, people proposing to sell drugs but selling grass or bark – were still approaching passers-by.

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