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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