It is just little over a week since the riots took place in Croydon on Monday 8th August 2011. Addiscombe which got off lightly compared to London Road or Church Street, but some premises still sustained damage. In the Addiscombe Ward, The TV Shop on Cherry Orchard Road lost stock following breaking of its shutters and glass doors and windows. Just outside the ward boundaries, the large Co-op on Lower Addiscombe Road also suffered extensive damage, reputedly over £30k worth. Inside Croydon and Croydonfutures provides detail accounts of the night and aftermath.
As a result of the riots Croydon, as a community, has many questions to ask of itself, its people and society generally. We need to understand what the local causes of these riots were. How well did Croydon public services such as the police and the Council deal with the problems on the night? And in the days following? And what do we need to do in the future to stop these riots happening again?
We believe that they only way we are to reach a consensus on how Croydon can move forward is to hold a local inquiry. This Croydon Inquiry needs to be inclusive and ideally should have Croydon Councillors; members of local voluntary and faith groups, young people, small businesses; and groups that have insight in how local gangs works. It should work to a strict 3 month timetable, have professional support, and be funded by either Croydon Council, the Mayor of London, or the Government.
It was clear, from the night, that local gangs were the sparks that started the confrontations with the police and the looting, but it was also the case that many more people of different ages, races and sexes joined in, and from press reports not all were career criminals. The easiest response to the destruction and misery caused by these looters and rioters is to make a statement that all these individuals should be locked up and the keys thrown away. But this type of knee jerk response means we fail to understand the causes of what actually happened, and make it more difficult to come up with solutions that will actually prevent these terrible events happening again. Simplicity has its place but we should not be afraid of complex answers if the results are answers that may actually work.
As this post was being written on Newsnight of 16th August 2011, our a MP Gavin Barwell MP was pushing the conservative law & order response tough sentences, claiming that this is what his constituents want. It is the case that many people want tough action from the Courts, and as an eyewitness to the evening’s events it is one which I have some sympathy, but a true politician of worth is one who puts reason before emotion, and thoughtfulness before populism. Just as Cameron and Boris Johnson failed Croydon in the first few days of the riots, with their phoned-in performances from their holidays, Gavin Barwell is failing Croydon today. Gavin, you do not speak in my name, when you oppose a local inquiry.