CROYDON IN CRISIS: Serious questions have been raised about the behaviour of the Mayor-backed security staff drafted into the town centre supposedly to deter anti-social behaviour.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
An investigation is being conducted into the behaviour of a town centre “ranger”, an employee of the private security firm hired by Croydon BID, after an unsavoury incident on North End which left an eight-year-old child terrified.
The boy’s father has called the security guards “thugs” and described their behaviour as “no better than football hooligans”.
Inside Croydon reported earlier this month how Croydon BID – the town centre business improvement district organisation, representing most of the big businesses and retailers based in and around the Whitgift Centre – had contracted Dorset-based SWL Security Services to send out uniformed patrols around North End and surrounding areas.
Croydon BID says that its street ranger team, 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”.
In fact, this privatised, pretend police force could soon be doling out on-the-spot fines, thanks to Mayor Jason Perry’s new PSPO – a Public Space Protection Order. The PSPO will allow Perry’s private police force to slap £80 fines on anyone discarding a cigarette butt or dropping litter.
Croydon’s part-time Mayor’s consultation on the PSPO, which covers parts of Fairfield, Broad Green and Waddon wards, ended last week.
Widespread concerns had already been raised about “Perry’s Power Rangers” and their enhanced powers under the PSPO before the incident, which occurred on the same afternoon that the death of the Queen was announced.
Croydon BID’s chief executive, Matthew Sims, was forced to hurriedly announce that the episode was under investigation, after one of the BID’s rangers was witnessed shouting aggressively at a member of the public, apparently offering to start a fight, to the alarm and distress of ordinary shoppers as they went about their everyday business.
It has been suggested that the security guard involved has been suspended, pending the outcome of the inquiry. But offers of reconciliation to those affected and to discuss the episode have gone unfulfilled.
Johnny Dowling is a Croydon resident who works in a senior management position at a national charity. He was clearly shaken and annoyed at what he witnessed on Croydon High Street on the afternoon of September 8.
“Walking down Croydon High Street and the uniformed ‘Bid Rangers’ were offering people out for fights and attempting to bully me in front of my eight-year-old son,” he said.
“Great ambassadors for what is already a disaster of a high street,” Dowling tweeted soon after the incident.
Dowling told Inside Croydon that the rangers were behaving “like thugs”.
He said, “We were walking past and they started shouting at someone way up the street with the standard ‘come on then’, and shouting to meet them down the alley.
“As this was happening while me and my son were walking in front of them, I pointed out that this is not what they are there for and doesn’t help.
“They said, ‘We are just offering him down the alley as he said something racist, so mind your own business’.
“Then they walked right up next to us to continue being intimidating, all while my son is with me getting nervous. When we walked into Centrale for his vaccination, one of the rangers, with a distinct accent, followed me in and told me to come outside with him.”
Dowling said that the rangers’ security licences were not displayed, and the rangers refused to show them even when asked. He described their conduct as “needless aggression” and “really disgraceful”.
“They seemed more interested in handing out beatings than fines.”
Dowling remained concerned for the distress caused to his young son. “On our way back home, he kept looking over his shoulder for them as it really shook him up.
“There are enough reasons to be worried on the High Street without employees of official organisations being added to the list!”
Dowling says that Croydon BID’s Sims responded quickly after his tweeted complaint. But that an pre-arranged phone conference with the management at SWL Security has failed to be met.
Sims has said that he has requested the rangers’ bodycam footage, but Dowling said, “They won’t have had their bodycams on when they were the ones starting trouble.”
He believes that the absence of any recording of the incident on the rangers’ bodycams will be used to claim that there was a “lack of proof” of any misconduct or questionable behaviour by the security staff.
“Regardless of the ‘lack of proof’ line, they did not have their licences displayed, which they are legally required to do, and that should show up in any bodycam footage that they do release.
“It just isn’t good enough. Croydon High Street really does deserve better than bullies in high-viz.”
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