Drug addicts have been taking advantage of a scheme to replace ageing phone boxes with new high tech ‘digital kiosks’.
The touchscreen kiosks are intended to replace 1,000 payphones in cities across the UK and 200 have already been installed nationwide.
However, installation of the LinkUK booths by BT has now been halted after one council found 90 per cent of callers were using the booths to organise drug deals.
Police purportedly intervened to stop the London Borough of Tower Hamlets granting permission to install any further kiosks, preventing the installation of eight additional machines, after evidence of how the booths were being used emerged.
Each LinkUK kiosk gives users access to a number of free services, including up to 1Gbps Wi-Fi, two USB charging ports, a touchscreen tablet for accessing maps, directions and local services, as well as free UK landline and mobile phone calls.
The cost of the services is funded by adverts screened on two 55 inch (139.7cm) high-definition digital displays.
Council officials say that of the 80 people who used the free telephone service in one day – 72 were calls to buy drugs, according to a new report published in Engineering and Technology (E&T).
BT is said to have placed restrictions on free phone calls from machines where drug dealing was reported.
‘People get 30 seconds of free calls – it allows people to phone their dealer and say, “two browns and one white, please”,’ slang terms for crack and heroin, a council spokesman told E&T.
‘They have been used in similar ways across the UK. There’s quite a lot of drugs in inner cities.’
The kiosks have even been involved in court proceedings, with one case dealing with a gang of drug pushers in Whitechapel.
They were said to be operating five sales lines for addicts, making £1.28 million worth of sales – many of them from the kiosks.
However, BT says that the claims relating to widespread drug dealing in Tower Hamlets outline in E&T are inaccurate.
‘Any claims about the InLinks and antisocial behaviour are isolated to a handful of units within the borough and we take such reports very seriously,’ a spokesman told The Times.
‘Despite the lack of evidence, we’ve therefore taken the precautionary measure of temporarily restricting calls in the evening on some InLinks in the area.’