Wandle Park concerns after rape, drug deals, gangs and arson

There is growing anxiety among residents and park users, with some beginning to regard Wandle Park as “a no-go zone”.

After a £3.5m investment, Wandle Park was supposed to be a town centre oasis of calm

As well as an alleged rape attack in the park last month, which is under police investigation, Wandle Park has become notorious as a gathering place for drug dealers, children’s play equipment has been destroyed by vandals, and last week armed gangs gathered in the park for what is suggested was some kind of “turf war”.

And now the council officer responsible for over-seeing community activities in and around the park has announced that he is to leave the job at the end of this month, with no replacement planned.

Between 2011 and 2013, Wandle Park underwent a £3.5million overhaul, partly funded by Lottery money, and part paid for by developers for housing built nearby. It has come to be used as the venue for the Croydon International Mela since 2017, it has staged annual open air theatre productions and this year hosted Croydon Pride.

The Croydon Mela has been a colourful musical festival in Wandle Park

But a marked increase in incidents of anti-social behaviour around the park is becoming a growing concern, especially since there are no CCTV cameras or crime-prevention lighting in the park.

Police were called into the park again on the night of September 18, with a Met helicopter involved in a search in the dark.

Police sweeps of the park in daylight hours regularly reveal signs of drug use and discarded knives and weapons.

Last week, council official Andrew Dickenson posted this message on the Friends of Wandle Park’s Facebook page, “… to announce to all that the role of Volunteer and Learning officer for Wandle Park that I have had the privilege to be for the last 2½ years is coming to an end at the end of September.

“The generous Heritage Lottery Funding that made many of the fantastic improvements to the park, the activities and then this role possible finishes and it is not possible to keep the position going.

Promises of a ‘named park keeper’ (though not necessarily Percy), have been broken

“At this point I’d just like to say a big thank you for following the page and more importantly being a supporter of the park and events that have taken place over the whole five years which includes Tom Smith’s 2½ years previous to me and all the great work he did getting the activities programme up and started and established.

“As a Friends group we will endeavour to keep activities going in the park on a shoestring and trust that we can have your support in them, be that in attendance, help on the day or even sharing what is going on.”

In 2014, Tony Newman, the Labour leader on Croydon Council, made an election manifesto commitment to staff every significant open space in the borough with a “named park keeper”. This promise has never been kept, and Dickenson’s announcement shows that even where similar roles existed, the council is no longer managing to staff them.

Even with a dedicated council official to supervise park activities and equipment, rising levels of ASB have been taking a toll.

Vandals deliberately torched children’s swings last week, and returned the following night to set fire to the barriers placed around the area while repairs were considered.

The children’s play area in Wandle Park, the victim of vandalism

“We used these barriers, left in the park by a contractor, to keep people out of the area,” Dickinson noted.

“I went to the park this morning and as I approached I could see two of the barriers missing. Probably thrown in the river I thought to myself.

“No, the arsonists had come back and the fifth tyre had been set alight and two of the barriers had melted. The sixth tyre is going to be removed to prevent that being set alight.”

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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 Crime, Croydon parks, Knife crime, Tony Newman, Waddon, Wandle Park and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wandle Park concerns after rape, drug deals, gangs and arson

  1. Congratulations to Inside Croydon for flagging up the situation affecting Wandle Park. It may explain the large police raid there this evening.

    It is possible that more drug dealers have latched on to a trading area without many street lights and a free car park by coming to some of the large events that have been staged at Wandle Park. These have been worthwhile community events but sadly the same mentality that thinks it is right to burn toddlers play equipment has lead these opportunists to increasingly sell their evil drugs in the park.

    As you say there is lots of evidence of Class A drug paraphernalia as well as human excretia left by heroin users on pavements.

    One of the problems is, I understand, that police cuts that have seen the Borough Commander reduce the number of officers for this area from 4 to 2.

    Local residents and The Friends of Wandle Park have long been asking for CCTV to be installed. Who knows, it could have identified the person or persons who did that terrible rape.

    Equally it ought not to be difficult to get the car details if the dealers who speed in usually around dusk.

    I should mention Andrew Dickinson has done great work and is much appreciated by large numbers of park users for all the activities and improvements he has achieved.

    The Council has not been able to provide a park keeper for a very long while. There is a groundsperson but his role has been to mainly to deal with collecting litter and trying to keep the river and flora and fauna in a reasonable condition.

    The reality is that austerity has led to a massive decline in infrastructure and parks have been a frontline target. We are now perhaps reaping some of the ills of this neglect.

  2. derekthrower says:

    This is a real shame. We are always receiving state propaganda that drug use is in decline. It just doesn’t tally with daily experience of Croydon. The current regime always state drug use as a cause of social problems and cannot accept that it is a part of the cycle of problems. There will be no change to this continuing decline under the current regime.

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