The community are to patrol arm in arm with the police In Thornton Heath as part of an initiative to reclaim the streets from lawlessness.
The initiative was revealed as the borough commander Chief Supt Dave Stringer had to call three meetings at short notice with Thornton Heath residents to discuss knife crime, anti social behaviour and give reassurances in the wake of the murder of Kelly Mary Faurvrelle.
The community walk-alongs with police and the community patrolling Thornton Heath together are set to be started within weeks.
In response to the suggestion by Donna Murray Turner, Chair of Safer Neighbourhoods Board at a meeting to discuss the double murder, Chief Inspector Craig Knight said this was a “mutual support way of getting out there together and taking a collective stand.”
Chief Supt Stinger said it was a very visible way of ‘demonstrating trust’ with the community and ‘sent a powerful message.’
He also revealed that the borough from autumn was to take the unusual step of allocating an extra police officer to the Thornton Heath ward bringing the number to three plus a PCSO. Most wards in London have just two police officers assigned to a ward Safer Neighbourhood Team.
He also pledged to focus more on ‘quality of life issues’ like street drinking and aggressive begging with officers doing more foot patrols after one speaker said two “generations of young people have not seen police on the street.”
In June at St Paul’s Church Croydon’s the top cop was asked if areas of Thornton Heath were ’no go areas’ because of lawlessness while another speaker compared the streets to the ‘wild west’.
On a walkabout prior to the meeting Chief Supt Stringer had walked along the High Street speaking to shopkeepers and residents who told him they were fed up with anti social behaviour citing it as their top priority along with knife crime and drug dealing.
He was told about aggressive begging, racism, drunkeness and blatant drug dealing.
At least two men are routinely passed out on the floor outside Tesco often sitting in their own urine as mums take their children to nursery in the morning.
Another woman said she avoided the High Street because it was so ‘depressing’ and at least two speakers at the meeting said they were contemplating moving as living in Thornton Heath had become unbearable.
Accounts heard by The Chronicle include one female shopper being offered by a man begging outside the store a view of his privates inexchange for money, while another woman was racially abused.
Ambulances are frequently called to benches in and around the supermarket to check on unconscious street drinkers.
The senior officer said he was bidding for extra resources from the Met’s central fund to provide extra officers in Thornton Heath when the Safer Neighbourhood Team were not available. Either way, he said, there would be more visibility in early July.
The increased police presence in Thornton Heath has been noticeable and officers seized the knife pictured from a suspect arrested during a stop and search. An off licence has also been fined for serving alcohol to an individual who was drunk.
However, Chief Supt Stringer said there were no quick fixes and in addition to more visible policing, there needed to be more coordination with the council and local businesses.
In the last week all three Tesco cashpoint machines were broken after the screens were smashed and bus passengers witnessed a man fleeing the store with a basket full of booze pursued by security.
The level of shoplifting has got so bad that growing numbers of items now have security tags including pre packed fish and Nurofen tablets which are encased in a perspex which has to be unlocked at purchase.
Additionally a ‘design out crime officer’ will be working on what techniques physical and environmental can be put in place to reduce crime particularly around hotspots like Tesco.
The Chronicle also challenged Tesco about how it is addressing ASB issues and a spokesperson said: “We take security at our stores very seriously and we are in regular contact with the local police. We ensure that all crimes and incidents of anti-social behaviour are reported by our security team and we regularly review our security arrangements.”
Austerity has seen the police service cut to the bone and while the Commissioner has protected the frontline, the Met has lost large number of PCSOs who were the ‘eyes and ears ‘ of community engagement.
Last week five former heads of Scotland Yard warned that the public have lost confidence in the police and fear that Britain has descended into lawlessness because of knife and drug crime.
Croydon Says No To Knives, a community group started by mothers, two of whom have lost sons to knife crime held a candlelit vigil on Sunday at Thornton Heath Pond to pay tribute to the victims of violence including Kelly Mary Fauvrelle who was murdered on a street just minutes away from The Pond.
The women are behind the blue and purple ribbons many may have seen in Croydon which are in memory of knife crime victims Kelva Smith, Andre Aderemi and Jermaine Goupall.
Group founder Nichole Young spoke about how they were also working on a plan with police to patrol knife crime hotspots. The group is part of #OperationShutdown, a wider campaign group which has staged several prominent protests across London.
Yemi Aderemi whose son Andre, was 19 when he was chased and stabbed by a group of teenagers, spoke about the impact on families: “I wake up every day and every time I hear that another young person has been murdered or anyone murdered with a knife, gun or serious violence I feel I am letting someone else down if I haven’t done my part. After losing my son I don’t want anyone else to lose a loved one.”
She revealed how one of her son’s who had been eight when his brother died had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder adding: “As a community we need to come together find some solution to look out for young people.”