Filthy phone boxes in Brent hotspot for drug dealing and prostitution say councillors

A filthy phone box in Harlesden that campaigners say attract drug dealers and prostitutes

A filthy phone box in Harlesden that campaigners say attract drug dealers and prostitutes - Credit: Adam Shaw

Filthy phone boxes in Brent that attract drug dealing, prostitution and fly-tipping should be ripped out say campaigners.

Councillors say a series of “filthy” and “decrepit” phone boxes in the borough are hotspots for illegal activity and urged phone companies to step in.

Cllr Mili Patel explained there are a number of sites in Harlesden that are “contributing to antisocial behaviour and drug dealing” in the area.

She claimed they are often used to support prostitution, while others use them as a toilet. 

Cllr Patel suggested phone box owners British Telecom (BT) are aware of the issues – and the impact this has on local communities – but will only intervene if “cash-strapped” councils can pay to have them replaced. 

She acknowledged the importance of people being able to stay connected but argued that, in these cases, the phone boxes are doing more harm than good.

She added local police groups and Brent Council officers “would like to see them go” to help tackle antisocial behaviour issues in the region. 

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Responding to her comments on social media, the account representing Kensal Green Police questioned why the few remaining phone boxes had not been replaced. 

It added: “They are as busy as ever, and not by people using the phone.”

Cllr Mary Daly, who represents Sudbury, said residents in her ward faced similar problems. 

She said there is an ongoing campaign to get four “decrepit” phone boxes along a 50-metre stretch removed as soon as possible. 

Following the shift to mobile phone use, many payphones across the UK have been upgraded to BT digital units, known as Street Hubs, which offer free public WiFi and USB charging points.

Others – mainly the iconic red telephone boxes – are being sold off for as little as £1 to be transformed by communities into art galleries or mini museums and libraries.

A BT spokesperson said: “While crime and antisocial behaviour are a matter for the police, we take all concerns seriously and are in dialogue with local police and Brent Council to understand how we can help address antisocial behaviour in the area where these boxes are situated.

"We have recently submitted planning applications offering to replace some of our current payphones in Harlesden with Street Hubs, our new digital street units offering free public Wi-Fi and device charging.

“For anyone who wants to report a damaged payphone or one in need of cleaning, they can call our helpline on 0800 661 610 which is available Monday to Friday 8.30am – 5pm. Alternatively, BT is available to support via email: customer.serv.payphones@bt.com.”