The latest ransacking of the Croydon FC clubhouse came just days after the police in South Norwood, together with the local MP and Croydon Council’s cabinet member for community safety, staged a meeting intended at rebuilding confidence in the local area around the Arena and South Norwood Country Park.
This followed not only the break-ins at the clubhouse earlier this year, but six attacks on women, including sexual assaults, in broad daylight in the Country Park.
In all, nearly 50 local people came to the two-hour event, which had been organised by the Met, Sarah Jones MP and Hamida Ali, the Woodside ward councillor who is responsible for community safety across the borough. All age groups and sections of the neighbourhood’s diverse community were represented. The headteacher of Oasis Ryelands was also present.
It was a sometimes emotional, heart-rending and tear-jerking occasion, as the community shared various very sad experiences of being victims of crime in the local area.
Some attendees felt that it was good to share such experiences, but, if the meeting was also to be about confidence-building in the local constabulary, that was definitely not achieved.
Some residents left the meeting more anxious, some actually frightened, after the police said that they are struggling to cope under reduced-resourcing.
References to treating knife crime as a public health issue and stopping young people getting into bad company by reducing school exclusions seemed like distractions when not part of a more determined political will to improve the safety on our streets.
“A lot of the knife fights come when the pupils come out of school at four o’clock in the afternoons any way,” was the observation of one attendee at the meeting.
It is less than 18 months since a 20-year-old man was stabbed and killed in broad daylight yesterday, outside the Albert Tavern.
What was especially distressing for some at the meeting was the realisation that it was younger people who were most at risk of being victims of crime.
One mother spoke of how families can be taken unawares of their children being drawn into crime and how she had successfully rescued her son from drug dealing with a county lines gang.
The area around Norwood Junction and Woodside does suffer from drug dealing that leads, among other things, to desperately destructive crime, with users seeking cash to feed the habit. The drug culture is finding its way into the structure of the local economy. The inability of the police to deal with many crimes leads local criminals to make judgements on whether they are really going to get apprehended, let alone charged with a crime, thus putting residents at risk and increasing the crime rate.
At the meeting, the police gave the impression that drugs were a societal issue outside their remit.
As if trying to provide some reassurance, the meeting was told that crime challenges are worse in north London.
The police did not seem fully aware of the extent of the local crime crisis or indeed some high-profile incidents of which many in the community were aware.
Indeed, some at the meeting raised the issue that it was not until people from the community staged a protest walk in the Country Park, after more than six weeks of attacks on women there, that the regional television news took an interest in the matter, and the police seemed to be spurred into action.
Others questioned why the police had not done more to raise the alarm and tell residents of the attacks on women in the park. The police ressponse was that they could not tell people everything that is going on.
Residents expressed despair at reporting crime online which they felt was never followed up. One expressed the view that nothing much came from bi-monthly meetings with local ward councillors about crime.
The police said that the unexpected need to police Extinction Rebellion events and to protect Heathrow from incursions had meant that summer holiday crime-fighting initiatives locally had had to be put to be dropped. The need to police in numbers in Croydon town centre was also a distraction.
Councillor Ali spent a good deal of time at the start of the meeting in serious-minded fashion advising of the work she does to tackle crime through various committees that she serves on. The speech was judged by some on the receiving end as being too long, too self-promotional and, however well-intentioned, ill-judged.
One of those attending the meeting told Inside Croydon afterwards, “I actually feel less safe now that I am aware of the full extent of what is going on. And I think that there is no will or funds even to try and reverse the decline. It is all very, very depressing.
“As with the attacks in the park, maybe we’ll just have to get on ourselves, ignore the politicians and find our own solutions to rebuild confidence within the community.”
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