“The police do nothing”
“Police presence hasn’t dropped, its fallen off the cliff”, was the stark message issued by a shopkeeper in Farnham Road, Harold Hill after four weeks of terrifying abuse by a gang of local thugs.
Staff at the shop, who have chosen not to be identified, have been threatened with knives, bottles, been spat on, verbally abused and pushed. Some staff are too scared even to leave the shop and walk to the bus stop after dark.
“Every day for a month these kids would come in and abuse staff, they threaten us with knives, they steal and even kick us.
“We called the police but they weren’t interested. We have to lock up at 11pm and walk to the bus stop and we are scared as they are on the corner of the street watching us,” said one shop worker.
After weeks of intimidating and anti-social behaviour, the staff have turned to the local Harold Hill Independent Party members, Jan Sargent and Lorraine Moss, for help.
“Since Ms Sargent has intervened, the police have started to listen to us. We would call 999 and on one occasion a police officer accused us of time wasting, saying we had called him only for a theft of £2.50, but they had abused us, threatened us – we didn’t know what to do, they didn’t even want to see the CCTV footage,” the staff member continued.
Anti-social behaviour has affected many shops in the Hilldene area, leaving some customers afraid to go shopping through fear of violence.
“Customers were telling us that they were too scared to come in our shop at night after witnessing the threatening behaviour. These kids don’t care who sees them, we started to shut our side door at 4pm to avoid them coming in and stealing,” she added.
The store manager has also suffered at the hands of these thugs.
He said: “I have been spat upon and pushed – I was a store manager in Tottenham but I think this area is worse.
“We don’t see the police anymore; they used to come in our shop, PCSOs and specials, now no-one comes in.
“We got the names and information of these thugs and we passed it all on to the police, but nothing happened,” he added.
The manager would like to see a ‘dispersal order’ being used to help stop this form of anti-social behaviour. These orders disperse groups of two or more people from areas where there is persistent anti-social behaviour.
The threatening and abusive behaviour has left staff scared and disappointed.
“They gave us a local number for the police so we didn’t have to keep calling 999, but, every time we called it no-one came. We left three voicemails and no-one ever answered us,” the store worker added.
by FRANCESCA LILLEYSTONE