Not content with having an extra 24 Met officers patrolling Croydon town centre, the borough’s new Mayor is clearing the way for a private police force, armed with the threat of £80 fines. By STEVEN DOWNES
Anyone seeking the hidden agenda behind Croydon Mayor Jason Perry’s plan for no-go zones in the town centre didn’t have to look very far.
The part-time Tory Mayor is working hand-in-hand with the big businesses behind Croydon BID to give extra powers to a private police force in the town centre, what are euphemistically called “street rangers”.
“The Croydon BID street rangers’ friendly and professional approach to deterring crime and anti-social behaviour is already delivering tangible results for many of the town centre businesses,” Croydon BID claimed in a press release slipped out just after the Bank Holiday, perhaps hoping no one would notice.
Croydon Business Improvement District says that its street ranger team, hired-in private security operators all dressed up in dark blue to make them look more than a bit like proper police officers, have been recruited “to deter crime and anti-social behaviour, and provide the necessary support, visibility, and reassurance to businesses and all those that use Croydon town centre”. Which is nice.
At least it might be “nice” until Mayor Perry and his mates rubber-stamp the proposal to make a large section of the town centre, and parts of Waddon, South Croydon and Broad Green wards, all subject to a PSPO – a Public Space Protection Order. The PSPO will allow Perry’s private police force to slap on-the-spot £80 fines on anyone discarding a cigarette butt or dropping litter.
And most likely, the PSPO will be used by Perry’s Power Rangers to menace, intimidate and hassle any homeless people or street drinkers, and move them out of the town centre’s shopping area. Because such anti-social behaviour is clearly bad for business…
Croydon town centre has had a PSPO before, between 2017 and 2020.
But it was not renewed, either because it was largely ineffective and unenforced, or – just as likely – because the cash-strapped council lacks the administrative capacity to keep its local ordnances up to date. In a pandemic and with the council running out of cash, the Town Hall discovered it had greater priorities than using Draconian rules to levy fines against people who often don’t have the money for their next meal.
The narrative from Mayor Perry has tended to suggest that the PSPO will give the police “extra powers” to deal with anti-social behaviour. But in truth, under the law of the land, the police already have powers aplenty to deal with any such conduct.
But Croydon BID and Mayor Perry’s power rangers will need the powers of the PSPO to enable them to act like a private police force.
Croydon BID implicitly admits that what they have brought in are simply pretend police.
Buried in its self-congratulatory press release, it tells its members: “In every instance, businesses should contact 999 if a criminal incident is taking place within their premises.” Their power rangers don’t actually have many powers at all.
Croydon BID has hired SWL Security Services, a Security Industry Authority-registered business based in Dorset, “to deliver its new team of street rangers, working primarily with Croydon Metropolitan Police Service and Croydon Council”.
According to BID, their power rangers are “fully trained”, though they don’t state what they are trained in – tea-making? jujitsu? crochet?
They say that they will be on duty for 160 hours per week providing “additional uniformed patrolling” – underlining the suspicion that they seek to appear to be police, when they are not. This, BID says is “additional presence, visibility, and uniformed patrolling throughout the town centre”.
Croydon BID in the past used their hefty budget, levied from their business members, to fund additional, real bobbies on the beat. Last year, the Met launched a special town centre team comprising 24 extra officers to provide extra reassurance for the public, all paid for out of public funds.
Yet for part-time Perry and his business chums, even this is not enough.
“The street rangers will act as the eyes and ears on the streets,” gushed the Croydon BID announcement, “providing an important point of contact for businesses, attending to issues relating to anti-social behaviour, general nuisance, shop-lifting and other town centre challenges with a view to resolving them.”
We are told that Perry’s Power Rangers are “friendly and approachable”.
They will “improve the overall experience of all those that use the town centre”.
In all probability, they will actually be no more than civic bounty hunters, their company’s payments likely to include a generous share of every fine that the power rangers issue under the new PSPO powers.
The power rangers have their own radio system, but to respond to calls not from the public but from members of Croydon BID who are paying for their private policing. “The team are always ready to assist businesses, their staff, and customers – improving the feeling of safety.”
Shoplifting gets mentioned more than once in the guff pushed out by the BID about their new service, suggesting again that this is more about keeping profits safe than protecting people.
“We are determined to work with our partners and our business community in reducing the impact of anti-social behaviour and business-related crime,” said Matthew Sims, Croydon BID’s chief exec.
“The arrival of a new street ranger team demonstrates our commitment and focus to contributing to a safer, more secure environment in which to live work and visit Croydon town centre. Working with our business community, the team are responsive and will engage to resolve conflict across our town centre.”
Which is nice.
Anyone wishing to contact the power ranger team can email them on email@example.com or call 020 8603 0050.
Or just phone 999 and ask for a real police officer.
- The council’s consultation on the PSPO closes on September 15 (click here to access it and have your say)
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- By having a comment section, we provide all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content. Details of how this works can be read by clicking here
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- Inside Croydon: 3.3million page views in 2021. Seen by 1.6million unique visitors in that 12-month period