Islington Council takes action to tackle anti-social abuse of free-phone units

Islington Council, the Metropolitan Police Service, communications provider BT and its partner InLinkUK have agreed to work closely together to tackle issues of anti-social behaviour at some InLink units installed in the borough.

In the last few months, the council and local police have been listening closely to the concerns of local residents affected by drug-related criminal activity and anti-social behaviour around a few of the InLink locations.

Since InLinks were installed in the borough in late 2017, InLinks on Blackstock Road, Fonthill Road and Seven Sisters Road have been used to arrange drug deals through misuse of the units’ free services. This has led to an increase in reports of anti-social behaviour, as some people have gathered to take advantage of the free mobile calling facility offered at the InLinks to contact drug dealers.

After the council’s initial discussions about the issue with police, other boroughs, BT and InLinkUK, all parties are working collaboratively to find solutions to tackle the problem while still offering a useful, free service to the community.

In response, InLinkUK and BT have temporarily suspended the ability to call mobile phones for free from the three units causing concern, and have agreed to keep the suspension under review in conjunction with the council and local police. All other services provided by the InLinks will remain available, including ultrafast Wi-Fi, free calls to landline and emergency services phone numbers and use of an interactive tablet to access local services and initiatives. InLinks also give people in need a one-touch lifeline to four charities: Samaritans, Childline, End Youth Homelessness and Runaway Helpline.

Cllr Andy Hull, executive member for finance, performance and community safety, said:

“These free-phone wi-fi units are intended to provide a useful service to the public. However, in certain areas they have unfortunately attracted people intent on abusing them and making life a misery for residents living nearby.

“I’m glad to see InLinkUK has recognised the problem and is taking responsibility for it, committing to listen to and work with the council and local police to find a solution and monitoring closely the way its units are being used.

“This is just one aspect of tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in our borough, but it is important we address it at the earliest opportunity. Together with local police and other partners, we will continue to work hard to tackle the underlying issues of substance abuse, drug dealing and related crime and anti-social behaviour here in Islington.”

Matt Bird, general manager of InLinkUK, said:

“InLinkUK and BT are working together to provide valuable communications services that workers, residents and visitors throughout the country rely on to get the most out of their cities at no cost to them or local councils.

“Unfortunately, we have seen some isolated incidents where a small number of users have abused the service and we’re committed to addressing that. As a result of the discussions and as part of our continued efforts to better serve communities, BT and InLinkUK have temporarily removed the ability to make free phone calls to mobile phones from three InLinks in the borough.

“We will monitor the impact of this change and will continue to engage with the council, community and the Police to ensure that the InLinks remain a welcome addition to Islington’s community.”

Notes to editors

  • InLinkUK is a London-based tech start up, working in exclusive partnership with BT on the removal of a large number of existing payphones, and installation of a smaller number of InLinks, that provide communities with a range of free digital services

Media contact information

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Islington Council media team – or 020 7527 2307.  Out of hours: 07769 163303

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