The Metropolitan Police were out in force last night at Croydon’s Valley Park to take action in dealing with what has become a weekly “cruise” meeting.
The gathering of often high-powered cars and motorbikes, attracting crowds of spectators, has been growing in size, noise and duration over the past few months, despite the covid-19 lockdown prohibiting mass gatherings. The regular late-night disturbances have caused nearby residents considerable distress.
Over previous weeks, the police have been present, to observe and monitor the situation, with a handful of Penalty Charge Notices issued.
But last night they moved in on the area used by the cruise drivers, mainly the car parks for the retail stores, such as Ikea, in Valley Park.
From around 8pm, more than 100 spectators had gathered in the car park, along with more than 100 cars, many with modified exhausts. Vehicles also gathered in adjoining Hesterman Way, Daniell Way, Volta Way, Franklin Way and Ampere Way.
It was about half an hour later that the police moved in to disrupt the gathering. Within an hour, they had sealed off the whole area off, using patrol cars and half a dozen vans.
According to an eyewitness, “By this time, many further cars were arriving from all directions, filling surrounding roads, their engines running and the pavements were filing with bystanders.”
The cruise – a combination of a parade of vehicles, some high-speed manoeuvres and occasional drag track-style racing – has become an increasingly organised event, with its own very loud sound system on the site, reverberating from outside the front of the shops. The participants also let off a series of large fireworks.
Attendees were even serviced by the presence of an ice cream van selling refreshments.
In the past, the cruise had been based further down the A23, along the Imperial Way industrial estate, until local ward councillors worked with residents and businesses to obtain a restraining order that was enforced by the police.
Long-standing residents claim that the weekly gatherings have been going on for around 20 years, intermittently, with the high-speed chases and races causing at least four deaths in that time.
Last night, police reinforcements arrived at 10pm in a further three vans and positioned themselves at the Daniell Way entrance to Ikea, from where they fanned out on foot.
It was at this point that car drivers and bystanders – and the ice cream van – were instructed to leave.
Fifteen minutes later, the police Territorial Support Group arrived in three vans arrived to assist in overseeing the orderly departure of the cars and pedestrians. London Ambulance Service vehicles were also observed to provide emergency treatment for one participant.
One senior police source at the scene said that they had taken action because the cruise had been going on for far too long; under coronavirus restrictions, the Met now had more powers to order the immediate dispersal of the vehicles and crowds of spectators.
But, just as when the legal orders were issued to prevent the similar gatherings for the Imperial Way area, last night the cruise was only displaced, with reports suggesting that some drove off to New Addington last night.
Police remained on the scene at Valley Park until close to midnight.
One resident told Inside Croydon, “The community is looking to continue its campaigning against this and to work with the police and Croydon and Sutton councils to stop this disruptive activity.”
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This situation happens all over the Country and in every borough in London. some areas have the resources to tackle this and nip it in the bud others cannot for many reasons – But there is one underlying commonality and that is the transfer of powers to local authorities and making many of the laws civil. It is now very difficult for Police Forces to deal with Noise, Pollution Congregating in public places or on private land as it is Trespass and a civil law. There the Anti Social Behavior laws however who wants to go out and ask a group of people to quieten down – move along please stop blocking the driveway its medical access 24hrs and please stop revving cars as the exhaust fumes are dangerous to asthmatic neighbors etc – film this while you are saying it get the abuse and perhaps assault – report it to the police and – well nothing – as they also do not want to enforce that either despite having those powers. Now factor in that if you call any department in the council and you wing the lottery and get an answer from a person – you will be asked to report this online or we do not have the resources present at this time as we only offer service from 10 – 16.00. No one comes to the online reports – ever – perhaps its different in other wards? Please let me know if you have better luck. No reasonably there either needs to be ring fenced finance for 24hr resource and effective response times or a legislation change allowing residents to obtain court enforcement fines and compensation with evidence themselves and that action funded from council tax with costs being pursued against the individuals in breach of those laws. Well I am sure a good Lawyer can draft up a process that is not onerous and actually works – At least then the Police in their droves that attended Valley park can attend those bitty boring tasks like assault – petty theft from cars and outbuldings – drug selling – HMO trap houses – Crack houses – Solicitation and brothels -General and persistant anti social behavior – anyone got more reported crimes closed without action please also add by reply subject to moderation of course? We might find that a zero tolerance approach for a few months actually changes behaviors and more cohesion of society follows.
So can Croydon Councillors be the model example for other boroughs and move out of the rotten borough awards – lets see if any of our ghost Councillors want to have a corporeal presence. I am regulary amused at how many Councillors use the Communication guidance for responding to constituants as an excuse for total silence. I used to think perhaps in case they get it wrong, but with the amount of verbal commitments promises and other utterances so far this year that seem to originate from some other planet it cannot be that. Perhaps they realise how culpable they are in causing the situations the constituents are raising with them – Will we ever know with the myriad levels of silence Croydon residents are exposed to?
I beat all these kids to it in the 1970s when the throttle return spring on my Morris Minor broke on Purley Way and the accelerator just hit the floor. I shot past a startled Cortina and actually hit 75 mph (not bad for a 990 cc), whizzing past other motors before understanding what was happening and turning the engine off.
Glided to a halt next to the bogs by the football pitches. Those were the days!