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 Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 11:47 GMT
Cleaning up King's Cross
Aerial view of King's Cross station
King's Cross is undergoing a major facelift İP&O

London's King's Cross has a reputation for drugs and prostitution, but soon it will become Britain's rail gateway to the continent. A clean-up campaign is making use of new powers against anti-social behaviour.
When it opens in 2007 the high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link terminal at St Pancras will become Britain's gateway to Europe.

ASBOs issued
Youth, 18, reported for throwing stones and picking fights on the Bayham Place estate.
Man, 26, begged, smoked crack and injected heroin in public.
Two women in their 20s, drug users and prostitutes.
Vanessa Bex, 34, from Hillingdon, who had 100 convictions, mainly for prostitution.
Man, 20, aggressive beggar who spat in victims' food.
Philip Merius, 33, drug addict from Hackney, jailed on 23 November for breaching ASBO.
Woman, 31, prostitute and drug user who faces sentencing later this month after third ASBO breach.
By 2022 it is estimated that 63 million passengers a year will pass through the new terminal and neighbouring King's Cross station.

Tourists and business travellers from the continent will get their first glimpse of London when they walk out of the exit.

But Camden Council, which controls this part of London, says its campaign to rid the streets of drug addicts, prostitutes and aggressive beggars is a response to demands from the existing community and not with an eye to future visitors.

Camden has issued 18 Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) since 1999 on prostitutes, drug users and other "nuisances".

Another three cases are up before the courts on Friday.

PC Dylan Belt, the Metropolitan Police's ASBO officer, explained how they work: "They are not a conviction but a civil restriction, akin to an injunction, which we can obtain by convincing a magistrate that a person has been a persistent anti-social nuisance."

Vanessa Bex
Vanessa Bex...more than 100 convictions
Nuisances include soliciting or committing sex acts in public, injecting or smoking drugs in public or begging.

The ASBOs can be so worded as to effectively banish the recipients from a specific area and from committing an anti-social act anywhere in the borough.

Seven people have been jailed after breaking their ASBOs.

The presence of three mainline stations - Euston, King's Cross and St Pancras - makes the borough a magnet for those seeking to buy and sell sex and drugs, especially after dark.

Philip Merius
Not welcome...Homeless drug addict Philip Merius
The area has been a red light district for more than a century, but drugs only emerged in the 1970s.


Silla Carron, who lives on the Clarence Way estate in nearby Kentish Town, said: "The dealers come from as far away as Peterborough and Slough."

She said drug dealing and prostitution had become increasingly "brazen" in recent years.

Ms Carron said a 10-year-old son of one of her neighbours had seen a drug addict engaging in a sex act in broad daylight while taking a shortcut down an alley.

"They'll do anything for the money for their next fix."

Addict caught on CCTV
An addict is caught on CCTV injecting a vein near his armpit
Work has recently begun on two giant redevelopment projects which will replace acres of tatty and derelict properties with gleaming new facades.

P&O's Regent Quarter development will consist of shops, offices and homes - the cheapest being a one-bedroom flat for £250,000 - on 5.8 acres just to the east of King's Cross station.

Further north property developers Argent St George are planning to build 1,100 homes on 58 acres of former marshalling yards.

The catalyst has been the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the developers are hoping the area's facelift will be accompanied by a social gentrification which will see drug taking and prostitution disappear.

Graham Corser, senior development surveyor with P&O, said: "The process started some time ago.

Silla Carron on Clarence Way estate
Silla Carron says this alley near her home is used by addicts and prostitutes, often in broad daylight
"There has been a marked decrease in street crime and drugs. They have moved away from King's Cross but no doubt they have moved elsewhere."

PC Belt said street robberies had fallen 55% in the last year and he attributed that in part to the use of ASBOs.

But Cathy Bird, a minister at King's Cross Methodist Church, said the developers were kidding themselves if they thought prostitution and drug taking would disappear overnight.

She said she also had concerns about Camden Council's reliance on ASBOs and told BBC News Online: "That legal approach is simply shifting the problem elsewhere."

Rev Bird said: "The local 'street community' is very much embedded in the King's Cross area and the situation will not change with the advent of the Channel Tunnel Rail Terminal.

"It may become a bit more hidden, or a bit more upmarket, but it will not go away."

She said: "What we need to do is give these women - and men, for there are some young men too - the means to move out of prostitution or, if they don't want to, then at least to provide them with a safer environment."

Her words were echoed by a spokeswoman for the English Collective of Prostitutes, who said Camden's use of ASBOs was "absolutely outrageous".

She said: "We are utterly opposed to them. These women can't just stop working.

I don't care if these people want to kill themselves but I don't see why it should be in my face

Silla Carron
Clarence Way Tenants' and Residents' Association
"Most of them either have a drug habit to support or are mothers with children to feed."

She told BBC News Online: "Because of these ASBOs they are driven into unfamiliar areas. Their regular, safe clients can't find them and they take more risks and stay out longer to get the money.

"Women go on the game because of poverty and until there is a viable financial alternative prostitution will continue and will simply be displaced."

PC Dylan Belt in Kings Cross
PC Dylan Belt points to used condoms and drug paraphernalia in the street

But Ms Carron supports the council's stance and added: "It's got better since they started using ASBOs.

"It shows these people that we're not prepared to put up with it.

"One day my granddaughter, who's six, saw a guy with his trousers around his ankles injecting his groin.

"I don't care if these people want to kill themselves but I don't see why it should be in my face," she said.

  Anti Social Behaviour Action Co-ordinator Ian Walker
"One woman served with an ASBO thanked the officer for saving her life"

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05 Jul 02 | England
29 Nov 02 | England
15 Feb 02 | England
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