[from Islington Gazette]
Bid to boost trade in police raid road
11 June 2008
BLACKSTOCK Road traders are signing up to an anti-crime charter in a bid to boost business in the wake of one of Islington’s biggest-ever raids – but many fear the damage is already done.
Police made 81 arrests and charged 36 people with drugs, stolen goods and passport forgery offences after the controversial raid in which 600 police officers stormed shops, businesses and homes in the Finsbury Park street.
Now traders – including many from the Algerian community who felt targeted by the raid – are being urged to sign and display a new charter to renounce crime and anti-social behaviour.
Abdulraza Saeed, 52, owner WAW Internet Centre, was one of the first to sign up to the charter but told the Gazette his business is on the brink of closure.
|The anti-crime charter|
“Our business has gone down. It’s dead,” said Mr Saeed. “This place was full the day of the raid. Even though the police cleaned the crime up, they took everything else with them. Even the innocent people don’t come because they’re scared.”
Baris Yildiz, owner of the Finsbury Store, added: “I’ve not heard about it but I’ll sign. The criminals aren’t in the shops but they’re on the streets. Some cafes are in financial trouble and people are staying away. The problem is rent and rates have gone up from £1,200 a month in 2002 to £4,000 now – but we used to do more trade.”
Asim Kahar, owner of Paradise Café, added: “I’ll put it in my window. It’s a good idea but it won’t help. It’s so much quieter now.”
So far 15 businesses have signed the charter, along with police chiefs, politicians and religious leaders from both sides of the Hackney and Islington border. A community festival is also being planned in a further bid to lift the gloom.
Despina Johnson, chief executive of community group FinFuture, acknowledged traders were worried, saying: “That’s part of the reason we’re putting out this message to encourage people back.”
She added: “We have seen the police and community working together to wipe out crime. Now we feel that we must carry on the good work by preventing the criminals returning and the best way is to encourage people to use Blackstock Road again.”
Mila Caley, director of City and Islington College’s Blackstock Road campus added: “City and Islington sees this as an excellent initiative and is happy to join up. It is essential that we maintain Blackstock Road as a safe area for our students and staff and all who live or work here.<