‘Every day there is fighting’: Residents fear Croydon’s new crime hotspot

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

Fights and thefts are becoming commonplace in Croydon’s new crime hotspot in the town centre, residents have said.

It all came to a head last week when two 13-year-olds were stabbed in the late afternoon in Church Street.

The teenagers were rushed to hospital after a huge fight erupted in the road at around 5.30pm on Tuesday of last week. It came just an hour after an 18-year-old was stabbed less than two miles away in Elmwood Road.

Shop workers in Church Street said fights regularly happened in the area as young people gathered there after school.

Kamran Iqbal, who runs a shop in the street, said he has seen other attacks in recent months.

The 38-year-old said: “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 school children keep a knife in their pocket?

“It has got horrible in the past 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.”

Another shop worker in the street, Faheed Azam, 31, heard the commotion when the fight broke out in Church Street, and said customers were scared.

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 the spate of knife crime was “devastating,” as things had started to look up since Croydon recorded the highest number of youth murders in London in 2021.

No teenagers were killed in Croydon last year, which he put down to grassroots organisations working more closely with the police and council.

Mr King said: “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.”

After the stabbings, Superintendent Mitch Carr, of the Met’s South Area Command Unit, said: “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.”

Supt Carr said the incidents in Elmwood Road and Church Street were not being treated as linked.

Two boys, aged 13 and 14, were arrested, the first on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon and affray, and the second on suspicion of affray in relation to the Church Street stabbings while two 18-year-olds were were arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm in relation to the Elmwood Road incident.

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.”

Pictured top: Church Street in Croydon (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

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