Police forced to abandon efforts to control East Croydon rave

For the second time in less than three years, last night the Metropolitan Police was forced to abandon a part of central Croydon to an unruly mob, with officers ordered to withdraw from an area that was unsafe for them as a public order situation got out of control.

Smashed: East Croydon sorting office this morning, where windows and some of the party-goers appear look smashed

Smashed: East Croydon sorting office this morning, where windows and some of the all-night party-goers appear, looking smashed

An illegal rave in the abandoned Royal Mail sorting office at East Croydon Station continued loudly into the early hours of this morning, with police watching on from a safe distance outside, while tram and bus services were stopped from travelling into the taped-off area, causing considerable disruption at one of London’s major transport hubs.

According to local MP Gavin Barwell, the police – mostly equipped with nothing more than standard issue stab vests and a truncheon – abandoned any pretence of being able to control the situation when confronted by a crowd of an estimated one thousand rave-goers.

As with the Croydon Riots of August 2011 – when Barwell bravely wrote of how he drove away from central Croydon, anxiously watching the smoke and flames in his rear-view mirror – the MP was not actually at East Croydon last night, but he expressed his gratitude for the updates provided to him by the Met’s under-manned and under-resourced front-line officers.

After the police first attended the scene at around 9pm, “Within 30 minutes the crowd had doubled and was increasing further with every train which arrived at East Croydon Station,” Barwell wrote, somewhat breathlessly, this morning.

“Officers became the focal point of the crowd’s frustration and missiles began to be thrown at police. This then escalated to fire extinguishers and furniture being thrown from the building at the officers below.

“At this point, it was evident that the officers on scene were at risk of serious injury and there was a distinct risk of the crowd moving into a very busy Croydon town centre with the possibility of serious public disorder. Just before 11pm, the decision was therefore taken to turn the building over to the crowd. Instructions were given for all officers to withdraw from the building, but to maintain a watching brief…”.

While it was never likely to have been as serious an incident as the infamous night of August 8, 2011, the rave highlights yet again the inadequacies in Croydon’s front-line policing when confronted by a major public order incident.

“For many of my constituents, this incident will have uncomfortable parallels with the 2011 riots where officers quickly found themselves wholly outnumbered,” Barwell said this morning. Serious doubts remain about whether the Metropolitan Police’s establishment, cut by Barwell’s Tory colleague, the London Mayor Boris Johnson, has ever been restored to pre-2008 levels, whether in Croydon or across the capital.

Cordoned off: the scene at East Croydon this morning

Cordoned off: the scene at East Croydon this morning

There would have been extra officers on duty last night, in any case, to deal with the crowds expected in the town centre for the late kick-off in the England v Italy World Cup match. But while the Met’s helicopter was busily buzzing over central Croydon for a couple of hours before midnight, calls for additional resources on the ground to help to control the issue appear to have gone unheeded once again.

“Were additional police resources requested quickly enough and were they despatched quickly enough?” Barwell asked. Whether he will get any frank answers to such questions from Mayor Johnson, or from London Assembly member Steve O’Connell, the Conservative councillor for Kenley, seems unlikely.

That police only knew of the rave at 9pm on Saturday – that is, as the event was getting under way with hundreds of revellers starting to spill off trains from central London and the south coast – suggests an utter failure in the Met’s and the council’s local intelligence operation.

For a borough with such a high density of CCTV cameras in operation, how the initial break-in to the building and the arrival of large pieces of audio and lighting equipment was never noticed should raise some serious questions not only within the police, but also at the  “borough command centre” (ho! ho!) at Croydon Council’s headquarters.

Chief Superintendent Dave Musker: move along, please, nothing to see here...

Chief Superintendent Dave Musker: move along, please, nothing to see here…

And that the old sorting office building was so easily broken into and turned into a rave venue highlights another shortcoming in Croydon’s “development” strategy, so warmly embraced by Tory MP Barwell, but which has left the husks of buildings across the borough abandoned or near-derelict and inviting use by squatters and rave organisers.

Last night’s incident occurred as the Met’s Borough Commander, David Musker, is being moved on himself, as first revealed by Inside Croydon last month.

Put in charge of Croydon’s police in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 riots with a brief to toughen-up the Met’s response in our borough, last night’s incident surely summarises the true impact – or lack of it – of Musker, who has been rewarded with promotion. His replacement as Croydon Borough Commander has yet to be named.

Even this morning, party-goers stared out of the many smashed windows and leered at truncheon-bearing but impotent police holding a cordon around the site.

With many shards of glass strewn over the surrounding pavements of Billinton Hill and George Street, bus and tram services continued to be suspended.

Once the Royal Mail was privatised at Vince Cable’s knock-down price for the benefit of the ConDem Government’s pals in The City, the national postal service abandoned its public utility function and instead opted to become property developers. The East Croydon sorting office building was one of the prime sites quickly flogged off, despite protests by local residents and the trades unions. It has since stood empty ahead of possible redevelopment for 200 yuppie apartments.

“Developers must bring such buildings into use as quickly as possible otherwise they leave themselves open to this kind of abuse,” said Andrew Pelling, the Labour councillor and occasional contributor to Inside Croydon.

“With a massive housing shortage and housing costs ballooning in Croydon it is a scandal that places like the sorting office and the Nestle building are left to rot. The physical damage that raves can cause to the empty buildings they take place in hurt our community.”


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Gavin Barwell MP, Croydon Central, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Transport, London-wide issues, Crime, Andrew Pelling, Planning, Addiscombe, Croydon 8/8, Tramlink, East Croydon, Policing, David Musker and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Police forced to abandon efforts to control East Croydon rave

  1. davidcallam says:

    Eye-watering empty property taxes might cover the cost of proper policing of these buildings but such taxes would depress the London property market that the Tories are doing their best to inflate prior to next year”s General Election. Call me Dave needs a feel-good factor working in his favour if he is to retain possession of 10 Downing Street.

  2. Rod Davies says:

    In the wake of this rave, the police closed the part of Cherry Orchard Road to gather evidence and due to the danger of falling glass. The traffic coming south down Cherry Orchard Rd and north along Addiscombe Grove was let to pour into Cedar and Colson Roads by the authorities with the resulting chaos. There were no diversion road signs to direct motorists away from the chaos, and no signage indicating that East Croydon Station was inaccessible by car.

    It leaves the local residents, none of whom seem to have been considered in all of this, wondering what on earth local authority officers were doing? (Still hung over from the Italy v England match?) or perhaps as it the usual case, council officers simply don’t care what happens to the residents of inner Croydon so long as the leafy suburbs are OK.) Allegedly two did turn up around one thirty in a car, claimed to have no authority nor responsibility and then left quickly.

    As for security of the Royal Mail building, none was in evidence beforehand and there seems to have been a reliance upon the steel sheets fixed over the street level windows.

    At 1 o’clock this afternoon some of the organisers of the rave were gathered around the junction of Addiscombe Rd and Colson Rd gazing at the mess and seeming to be quite pleased with outcome.

    There are plenty of vacant premises across Croydon of similar scale to the Royal Mail offices, if this has been seen as a successful event by the organisers, Croydon may prove to be a very fruitful environment for them to operate in.

  3. derekthrower says:

    Everyone in the media seems to have been very slow off the mark about this full scale riot. Croydon tram link were claiming that the trams was operating well on it’s website till at least Sunday midday and no mention in the national media till very late. No doubt will be recorded in the national crime statistic as a single case of crime in the never ending falling levels of lawbreaking in never never land.

  4. mraemiller says:

    ” , how the initial break-in to the building and the arrival of large pieces of audio and lighting equipment was never noticed…”

    Silly question but did no one think to cut the mains power to the building?

    • Nick Davies says:

      They probably did, then promptly unthought it.

      Plunging 1,000 pissed youngsters in a semi-derelict building into pitch darkness is not the wisest thing to do unless you want a mass panic on you hands and then have to try to explain the deaths and injuries at a public enquiry.

  5. Sal Paradise says:

    Give kids somewhere to rave away from residential areas. In other words, repeal the Criminal Justice Act

  6. sed30 says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    Now I know why East Croydon was cordoned off when I went past this afternoon.

  7. Could the Police see that East Croydon was overcrowded and close the station while the crowd goes, then let people out via Dingwall Road so they can be monitored and be controled like football fans are?

  8. Rod Davies says:

    From the East Croydon Community perspective this raises a number of issues;

    Clearly the police were overwhelmed and throughout the day lacked the resources to respond to the situation and deliver what was expected of them. Around midday none of the duty Met community officers stationed on Cherry Orchard Rd or Addiscombe Grive were from Croydon, and their lack of local knowledge limited their ability to manage the traffic effectively.

    The council seemed wholly absent until Veolia came to sweep up the glass. There seemed to be no evidence of contingency planning in place or a rational response to the loss of this key junction and access to the station for motorists. I would have expected that the Borough Emergency Control Centre would have provided the lead once the public safety issues had been addressed. It may of course be that successive rounds of redundancies have so depleted the council’s front-line that there is no resource available.

    On a wider perspective Croydon has plenty of empty buildings, and if these are not guarded properly then economic operators like those that organised this rave see an opportunity they will take it. No one should delude themselves this rave was about anything except making money. At £15 per head entrance charge, the organisers presumably took at least £9000 if 600 people got in – a very nice sum if you aren’t paying for premises, electricity, various licenses and meeting Health & Safety requirements!

    The council needs to look into what occurred, identify the weaknesses, develop a plan to resolve them and make it public. There’s little to be gained from a public blame game.

  9. Just take a step back and look at what this is; it’s people gathering to dance, get mashed and have a wild fun time, that’s all. So why isn’t this happening in legal venues? The answer to that is it can’t, a succession of laws – some introduced by the previous Labour government – to outlaw raves and the recreational drug use that goes with them.

    It’s no good blaming the Tories for this, Labour is just as much a cause of the problem. What you have here is the result of drug prohibition, nothing less, don’t you recognise a speakeasy when you see one? Just as in the days of Al Capone when the illegal drinking dens had the best music, now we have illegal raves providing the only unrestricted night time entertainment.

    This is the result of an insane drugs policy, some heads need banging together for sure, but it’s not the ravers.

  10. Rod Davies says:

    A 15 year old boy has died due to this event (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/croydon-rave-boy-15-dies-3706767).
    This event was a cynical commercial affair in which the “organisers” who charged the 600 or so people, who got in, the princely sum of £15. They made on entrance alone a cool £9,000 without having to pay rent, insurance, utilities, security or license fees that any other entertainment business has to pay. They may like to believe that they are some kind of resistance to capitalism or free spirits, but in truth they are dealers in risk, injury and death (a bit like arms dealers but less regulated!). They create a scene where adulterated “recreational” drugs, laced with God only knows what, are sold to foolish young people, making the “organisers” and their associates even more money, and take money for entrance into an unsafe environment.

    But in theory I’m all for libertarianism, letting people do what they want as long as no one expects me to pay for their endless liberty. So when they falls sick from taking bad drugs let them lie there and live with the consequences. If the building they break into catches fire, let it burn with them all inside. Isn’t one of the aspects of libertarianism that one has to take responsibility for the consequences of ones actions.

    The organisers and participants of this rave freely took part, no one compelled them, and consequently they should have prepared to take the responsibility. The thousand or so people who turned could have been allowed to freely enter and dance the night away, and if something went wrong they could freely deal with it themselves.

    But it doesn’t work that way does it? The people who organised this event, charged the entrance fee and sold the drugs don’t contribute from their profits in corporation tax to the public services (ambulances & hospitals) that clean up the mess they create. The ordinary boring people who go to work everyday pay for this indulgence, and he who pays the piper calls the tune – so if the boring people dont want raves they’ll remain illegal.

    But ultimately a 15 yr old boy paid the price together with his family & friends.

    Actually the organisers of raves are true Thatcherites, there’s no such thing as society or any responsibility to it as long as you’re making MONEY!

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