JOGGERS and cyclists have been warned over the dangers of using canal towpaths after two people were mugged at gunpoint.
In separate incidents, which police say could be linked, two groups of people were threatened with firearms and robbed.
On Saturday, at around 8pm, two 19-year-old men and two teenage girls, aged 16 and 18, were walking along Royal College Street when they were approached by two men and ordered down to the canalside at gunpoint.
Once out of sight, they were robbed and told to stay there until the two suspects had left the scene.
The following night at around 7.30pm, a 14-year-old girl was threatened with a gun on the towpath by Camden Street.
She had been sat on the canalside with four male friends, aged between 14 and 20, when they were approached by two suspects who produced a handgun and lined them up by a wall under a bridge. The thieves patted them down before walking off with their valuables.
Although police have stepped up their patrols since the robberies, Detective Sergeant Michael Waters from the Robbery Squad moved to reassure people that as far as he is concerned the towpaths are safe.
For those familiar with the waterway, which stretches across London, the news was not a shock.
In December, Islington police advised people not to use the canal after dark following 13 robberies at knifepoint in one month.
Del Brenner, an advisor to the Mayor of London and spokesman for the Regent’s Network, a campaign to bring the waterways back to life, said: “To be blunt, they’re not safe at all. They’re so isolated. This is a problem we’ve had all the time.”
Mr Brenner’s campaign group want to reintroduce freight boats on the 200-year-old waterways.
He added: “In the long run, when we get the canals working again, there would be a lot more boats going past day and night and that’s the sort of thing that would make a difference.”
But former boxer and personal trainer Jack Murray, who now works at a gym in Primrose Hill, said there were far too many “dark characters” lurking on the towpath for it to be safe at night.
“I don’t know what you could do to make it safer,” he said, “other than having guardian angels every few hundred metres, but that’s a resource and who would want to supply it for the fitness brigade? For women, my advice is it would be very much a no-no.”
Cyclist Stefano Calotti backed Mr Brenner’s call for safety in numbers.
Mr Calotti, of the Camden Cycling Campaign, said he had heard of “pranksters” who were usually “just kids” and who would throw things at passing bikes for fun.
Five teenagers, all aged 15, were arrested near the crime scene on Sunday, questioned and released on bail.