Residents and business owners devastated after knife crimes increase in Croydon’s town centre
Kamran Iqbal, a shop owner on Church Street, Croydon (Image by Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)
Locals have said that fights and thefts have become common at Croydon’s town centre, which has recently become the ‘new crime hotspot’, according to MyLondon.
Last week two 13-year-olds were stabbed in Church Street around late afternoon which brought the state of the area to light.
Reports mentioned that the teenagers were part of a huge fight that erupted in the road at around 5.30pm on Monday, March 21. This happened an hour after an 18-year-old was stabbed at Elmwood Road, less than two miles away.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service was informed by shop workers on Church Street about regular fights in the area as kids gather there after school. They added that the situation has become worse in the last year as more young people started flocking to town centre. This, in turn, has caused the residents to be fearful and affected several small businesses as customers are afraid to go there.
Kamran Iqbal, 38, a shop owner in the street said that he has witnessed several violent attacks in the last few months.
He said to MyLondon, “Every day there is fighting. They come inside the shop and try and steal the vapes. I have complained to the police, I don’t feel safe in this street. How can schoolchildren keep a knife in their pocket?
“It has got horrible in the last year but there is no hope that anyone will do anything. I think they should have police up and down the road every day after school otherwise they can’t stop the crime.”
31-year-old Faheed Azam, who is another shopkeeper in the street, said that he could hear the disturbance when the fight broke out last week and noticed that his customers were afraid of what was happening outside.
He said, “It would be very good if police were here when school ends for the safety of everyone. When the police are here everyone feels safe and there is no fighting, nothing. Customers are still scared so we are worried about the business. No one is coming in between 3-5pm when the school kids are here.”
Youth worker Anthony King said that things were starting to look better when no teenage deaths were reported in Croydon last year as compared to 2021, when the town reported the highest number of youth murders. This was attributed to the tireless efforts of grassroots organisations in working with the police and council. However, he said that the recent incidents of knife crimes being reported in the area were “devastating”.
“Church Street is becoming a new hub for children and young people to come and have fun but what it brings with it is criminality, street robberies and sadly violence. Young children are looking for things to do, there are cheap chicken and chip shops, there is a hub for them to engage with their friends. Church Street has been on the radar for a long time, we knew any day something could happen,” King said.
He added, “Croydon’s challenge is that our young people are very desensitised to knife crime. When you’re talking about 13 or 14 years old individuals involved in stabbings it has a wider impact on their friends, their family members – some of them have had so much trauma.”
An emergency meeting was held after the stabbings which saw youth workers, headteachers, the council and police in attendance. It was decided that a space in Centrale shopping centre would be set up for young people to gather instead of going to Church Street.
Superintendent Mitch Carr, South Area Command Unit, said, “Croydon residents will rightly be concerned at this spate of unacceptable and shocking violent incidents. We of course share that concern and are doing everything we can to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators.
“We do not and will not tolerate violence on our streets. Local people can expect to see an enhanced policing presence across the borough, and anyone who has information that could assist us with these investigations is encouraged to report it immediately.”
Croydon Council’s executive mayor, Jason Perry, said, “The council’s youth engagement and neighbourhood safety officers have been out in the area to speak to residents and businesses and engage with young people, while police are making additional police patrols.
“The council is working with local schools, community organisations and youth groups to support young people with a range of activities and mentoring in town centre locations. This is part of the council’s ongoing work to tackle violence and keep young people safe on our streets.”