Friday, August 12, 2011

Redbridge Response to the Riots

Since Monday evening things have calmed down in Romford and elsewhere. On Tuesday our businesses still closed earlier and I watched the owner of the camera shop downstairs packing his merchandise into his car to take it all home for the night. There were half a dozen police patrolling the car park and no sign of the looters. At around 11pm I went downstairs to thank them for their efforts and to offer them a mug of coffee.

Wednesday was even quieter with no sign of trouble. Last night was pretty much business as usual with pubs and clubs open and a large police presence which is not unusual here on busy nights. So is this the calm after the storm or the eye of the hurricane? A briefing at Ilford Town Hall summarised the current position.

In Redbridge the disorder on Monday was more serious. Around 200 rioters ran amock in the High Road after 5pm. Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Sue Williams, deployed her entire officer contingent - already depleted by the transfer of officers to riots in Inner London - including detectives, to clear the crowd and the street was taken back with only a few shops attacked.

Some of the rioters struck again in Ilford Lane, attacking two jewellers and it took time for police to chase them away. Like Romford, it appears that criminals were avoiding conflict with the police, instead seeking to capitalise on the situation by stealing electronics, jewellery and fashion items.

As at Thursday evening we were told there had been 950 arrests and we know that this number passed 1,000 overnight. 44 arrests had been made in connection with the Redbridge incidents and 63% of these were local people. 57% were unemployed but some were also in good jobs, indicating that this had nothing to do with 'poverty'. 95% of those arrested were male but surprisingly only 3 people were under 16. With arrests continuing these figures are merely a snapshot of a changing position, but Sue declared that the police were going to track down these criminals and arrest every one of them.

And audience made up largely of charities, business groups and neighbourhood watch coordinators had many questions and concerns, but all were keen to work together to come through this crisis. There was considerable support for the police and refreshingly little enthusiasm for excusing the behaviour of looters.

Sue Williams reassured us that there were no plans to reduce police numbers in the borough, beyond the redeployment of some sergeants in the safer neighbourhood team review. Redbridge Council was funding 13 additional officers in an agreement which was set to run for several years.

Concerns were expressed that sentences would not reflect the gravity of the situation, particularly for young offenders who - with some justification - see the courts as powerless when it come to imposing meaningful punishments. In one case a man caught with two stolen T shirts had been fined just £100 then told he wouldn't have to pay it because he had spent a day in custody - you get more than that for parking illegally! I guess we shall just have to wait and see the sentences imposed by the Crown Courts.

There were worries about how 'reasonable force' is defined if you defend your own property. This has been a vexed question for a very long time and the riots will reopen the debate. Because people live in town centres this is about more than defending goods, it's about defending homes and livelihoods as well. The law needs clearing up to give unambiguous support to residents and business owners who choose to fight back, not least because it will always take the police time to respond to a call.

There were also some positive proposals. Parents should be leafleted to make them aware of the importance of keeping children under control. Redbridge youth service were texting young people to warn them to stay indoors and most were taking notice. There were also calls to ban hoodies in the town centre.

Many people were surprised by the high quality of the CCTV images from Monday night. TfL have been using high definition CCTV pictures to prosecute criminals on the bus network for some time and like TfL the police are now publishing pictures of suspects. It is worth everyone taking a look and the link is . Anyone who identifies a suspect or has other useful information can call the police on 020 8345 4142 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.


Mrs Angry said...

I'm afraid I have to take issue with this remark:
"Sue Williams reassured us that there were no plans to reduce police numbers in the borough, beyond the redeployment of some sergeants in the safer neighbourhood team review."
I think it must be stated that in London we will lose hundreds of SNT officers: in Barnet we are losing five sergeants, whose experience is vital in preventative measures which can, as in my ward, prevent gang 'culture' getting a hold in a community. Saying they will be redeployed is misleading: our Sgt is going off to the riot squad - completely the wrong end of the problem, and not in borough.

691 trolleybus fan said...

The situation in Redbridge will be made worse by the Tory council's decision to disband its highly effective and respected Parks Police in favour of Boris's "BOGOS"s - buy one get one free. They will be deployed at the whim of the Borough Commander and will not necessarily be seen policing parks and open spaces.