Cambridge

The ‘drug hub’ in a Cambridge street where users openly smoke crack cocaine and inject heroin

A 'drug hub and homeless camp' in a Cambridge street is 'intimidating to families living nearby', a council meeting was told.

Residents called on police and Cambridge City Council to tackle what was described as "escalating 24/7 problems of drug taking" and "rough sleeping" in Hills Road between St Pauls Church and the HSBC Bank building.

The meeting heard how users are openly using crack cocaine pipes and syringes as people walk by.

And dealers use Ofo bikes to push their drugs openly while the street sleepers are even using a road sign as a washing line, residents said.

They won't take help

Bags of crack cocaine and heroin are found in raid of drug den in Temple Court, Cambridge

Council workers claim to have offered help to the rough sleepers and drug users but say they have refused.

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Minutes of the council's east area committee said: "Those involved appear to have refused to engage with the help they have been offered to change their lifestyle."

It was said "this is intimidating to people who live and work in the vicinity as well as the wider public."

Earlier clear up

Hills Road, Cambridge Picture by David Grandorge

The minutes described how in August 2016 residents met with police and the Safer Street Team from the council to discuss concerns about the area being made a hotspot for beggars and drug taking, in particular one individual who has been around for about six years.

Action was taken and the situation improved by the problems have now returned and escalated.

The minutes, published this week, showed how a member of the public, who was not named, said: "The current problems started gradually last autumn, with the odd beggar outside Tescos or Co-op.

"It has escalated with the return of the individual from 2016 and then with the addition of another regular just before or after Christmas. Gradually more have joined them.

"It has now reached the point when four or five individuals are effectively living on the street night and day, joined by others during the day – sites used are: HSBC Steps, side door to Davies Pharmacy, outside Co-op, outside Tescos and the corner of Chosen Bun Take Away.

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"During the day up to nine pavement sitters/sleepers have been spotted in the vicinity."

Drug hub

Cambridge Place (Image: Google)

Suspected dealers often appear on bicycles throughout the day.

The member of the public continued: "The area is now a street life encampment and drug hub. They leave their belongings unattended. They are so at home they have hung sleeping bags/blankets to dry on a traffic sign and line rigged up outside a building on Cambridge Place. Most of them beg overtly.

"They take drugs openly, people have witnessed them using crack cocaine pipes and syringes. Suspected dealers often appear on bicycles throughout the day, usually scruffily dressed, stay for a transaction and then move on.

"Often they use yellow bikes and leave them in the middle of the pavement. They appear in neighbouring streets too.

"Some suspected dealers are more smartly dressed and have been seen talking to the regular street people.

"The areas behind the Chosen Bun and the empty Abbey College building at the entrance to Cambridge Place are used for defecating, taking drugs (needles are often found) and dealing.

Chosen Bun

"This is the only way in and out of Cambridge Place and occupants cannot predict when or if they will stumble on one of these activities. They use the Costa Coffees toilets but the staff there are powerless to stop them.

"Graffitis on the buildings adds to the deterioration of the area, so does uncleared rubbish, and attracts these unfortunate characters.

"On Chosen Bun, graffiti has not been removed since reported last year; more has arrived since the New Year on the now closed Chinese Restaurant by St Pauls Walk. St Pauls Walk beside the church has uncleared rubbish.

"We hope our further reporting this week leads to action. All this has had an impact on the safety and wellbeing of those who live, work or pass by the area, there is also a high concentration of school children with at least six schools nearby.

"It causes: Obstruction of the pavement, especially where it is narrow already outside Tescos."

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Intimidation

Syringes used by drug addicts in the garbage pile on the ground.

The member of the public at the meeting said: "Those who live or work in Cambridge feel intimidated and fearful for their safety by having every move watched going in and out of the streets only exit/entrance.

"People feel threatened to use local amenities such as the shops and cash machines, especially the one outside the HSBC. Fear of verbal abuse. Fear of violence or being caught up in it.

"Why do more people not complain? We believe many ordinary citizens are unaware that these street people have been offered help with accommodation and to come off their addictions, so feel sorry and do not get involved (some offer food or money).

"Others may fear retaliation if their home or business could be affected. We are aware that some of these street people have themselves be victims of criminal activity even though they have turned down the usual channels of help; their situation is needed to be addressed firmly and compassionately if so."

Councillors respond

Cllr Kevin Blencowe thanked the member of the public for raising the issue to a wider audience.

He said the police were aware but actions had obviously not been sufficient or effective.

Cllr Blencowe added that it was difficult for the police as the demand for their time was unrelenting. Arrests were made but others simply replaced those who have been arrested.

The resident who brought up the issues said one notorious street off Hills Road was rife with drug dealing forcing at least one resident to move home.

They said: "Two years ago the police were informed of drug dealing and drug taking in Ashley Court which is now used by 20-30 drug users. Nothing had been done and action is needed.

"I am appalled at the lack of response and the lack of policing. This week a resident left Ashley Court as she could no longer live in such a dangerous environment.

"I do not see police taking any action; they are not dispersing these people on Cambridge Place and the surrounding areas so there is no disruption to their daily life.

"These problems had been regularly reported to the city councils ASB (anti-social behaviour) team over a number of years."

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Drugs in Cambridge

But Cllr Anne Sinnott replied that she was pleased these issues had be brought into the public forum and believed the problems on Cambridge Place to be much worse than had been reported.

She was not aware of the issues on Ashley Court and would speak with the member of the public who had raised this issue in the break.

Ashley Court (Image: Google)

The councillor said council's the Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) Team were trying to prosecute four individuals in the area but could not give any further information.

There had been illegal activity on the East Road estate and the team had been successful in dealing with this.

However there were those individuals who would not take the help offered and it was difficult to know what could be done for those people, she added.

The member of the public replied: "This week I have witnessed drugs being delivered in Burnside to individuals waiting on cycles which I believe are then taken to Mill Road."

Police and the council have taken action against the drug users.

The Safer Communities team obtained injunctions served by police against six individuals.

This banned them from the wider area and preventing them from causing any further nuisance.

The east area meeting was held in April.

The next meeting of the committee is being held tonight (July 12) but "due to an exceptional level of demand for police resources officers are unable to attend.

Council officers will note any issues and these will be forwarded to the police for their attention.

London gangs

Police grapple with a suspect outside the house (Image: David Johnson)

Drug dealing in Cambridge is now being driven by London gangs.

Officers are fighting a constant battle to rid the city of rhe dealers in crack cocaine and heroin who 'commute' from the capital.

In March the News joined detectives to raid a bolt hole off East Road used by dealers from the capital to push heroin and crack cocaine.

The moment police smash into the property (Image: David Johnson)

The raids were happening across the county to tightened the screw on dealers taking over homes of disabled, elderly and vulnerable people to use as bases in Cambridge.

The thugs use violence, blackmail and intimidation to turn flats into their base to push heroin and crack cocaine in the city – called 'cuckooing'.

From the flats they send out 'runners' to deliver drugs.

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