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Islington Tribune – by ROISIN GADELRAB and PETER GRUNER
Published: 13 March 2009


Police bid to tackle youngsters intimidating staff and passengers

GROUPS of youths look set to be banned from Finsbury Park station following reports of a campaign of intimidation against staff and claims that gangs are recruiting members from Islington schools.
The claims are made in a confidential report – which Islington Police have refused to disclose – in support of a case being made for the introduction of a dispersal zone around Finsbury Park bus and Tube station.
For three months from Monday March 23, providing police proposals are approved by Islington Council, an area around the station will allow police the power to break up groups of teenagers found hanging around and believed to be causing distress to passengers and staff. Youths forced to move on will not be allowed to return to the site for up to 24 hours. It is understood police will record their names and addresses.
Transport for London (TfL) has reported a recent increase in anti-social and threatening behaviour, as well as fights, criminal damage and hostility towards passengers, staff and police.
Officers claim the youths are using the station as a gathering point specifically to cause trouble for members of the public.
Sources say police believe gangs are attempting to gather strength by recruiting new members from Islington schools.
It is understood the problems have been made worse by the success of a dispersal zone around the N1 centre in Angel, which has pushed youngsters out towards Finsbury Park.
Police are also taking individual action against some of the most troublesome youths.
Islington Council crime chief Councillor Terry Stacy said: “The youngsters concerned who congregate in this area come from schools in and outside of Islington. Intelligence suggests certain individuals may try to encourage or bully other pupils to hang around with their particular group. We will not let this happen.”
Labour and Finsbury Park ward councillor Phil Kelly said: “Finsbury Park station has always been an area where people don’t like to be after dark. It’s time to take this action before more young people are sucked in. I’ve discussed it with the Safer Neighbourhoods team and I’m happy with the response.”
But some are not so convinced a dispersal zone will work.
Finsbury Park youth worker Desmond Riley said it has always been the case that children were recruited into gangs from school.
“But I don’t actually think that these are always gangs in the criminal sense,” he said. “Often they are just young people hanging about with nothing better to do. The answer is not to introduce dispersal areas around Finsbury Park. That’s merely going to push the problem somewhere else. The answer is to give these young people something to do – that means work.”
Gordon Kerr, who has been campaigning against the proposed demolition of the nearby Sobell Sports Centre, said the rise of gang culture in the area was another reason why the centre must not be closed for two to three years for redevelopment.
He said: “How many children are they going to condemn to death as a result of violent crime as a result of the loss of the Sobell?”
Islington Youth and Partnership Police Inspector Don Graham said: “The dispersal order is one of many tactics we are using to tackle youth crime and anti-social behaviour in the area. Operations are regularly carried out in the vicinity of the station during which young people are stopped and searched whenever appropriate.”
He said the operation will be helped by the recent addition of 40 new officers to patrol buses and bus stations.


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