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Traders’ fear and frustration as shoplifter kids ‘run amok’ in Dalston...but what can be done?

PUBLISHED: 16:27 24 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:04 04 August 2017

Ridley Road. Traders have warned they may take matters into their own hands if police are unable to clamp down on the shoplifter kids who have been making their lives a misery. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Ridley Road. Traders have warned they may take matters into their own hands if police are unable to clamp down on the shoplifter kids who have been making their lives a misery. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

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Traders in and around Kingsland Shopping Centre say groups of young people are running amok, stealing stock and assaulting them. The Gazette spoke to community leaders to ask what can be done.

A file image of Kingsland Shopping Centre. Picture: David MirzoeffA file image of Kingsland Shopping Centre. Picture: David Mirzoeff

The youth leader known as “Mama Hackney” has sent a stark warning to groups of children taunting, assaulting and stealing from Dalston market traders that the community will not tolerate their behaviour.

Janette Collins from The Crib youth club said adults should have the power to detain misbehaving young people around Ridley Road until their parents can be called.

It comes as traders say they are fed up with “police inaction” – and a top neighbourhoods cop admitted a lack of resources is tying their hands.

Janette Collins, nicknamed 'Mama Hackney' for her tireless youth work, pictured at an Islington Safer Neighbourhoods Board meeting this month. Picture: Polly HancockJanette Collins, nicknamed 'Mama Hackney' for her tireless youth work, pictured at an Islington Safer Neighbourhoods Board meeting this month. Picture: Polly Hancock

Jason Hull, who owns a toy shop in Kingsland Shopping Centre, said the problem began 18 months ago and has become “absolutely unbearable”.

“We had kids coming after school causing problems and messing about,” he told the Gazette. “Everyone warned at the time it was going to get worse.

“The thieves come in five or six. They walk up and say: ‘I’m taking this. What are you going to do?’

Police outside Kingsland Shopping Centre where the accident took place. Picture: Emma BartholomewPolice outside Kingsland Shopping Centre where the accident took place. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

“We’ve had a gang of 20 turn up with masks on. In a shopping area covered with CCTV from every angle that should not be able to happen. I’ve been here 22 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s out of control.”

Shezad Khan, who owns a handbag stall, added: “If you stop them doing things they will say they are going to try and give you trouble or harm you.

“Sometimes they will be riding a bike [through the shopping centre] and security will tell them not to but they don’t care.”

"Everyone is so frustrated about the inaction of the police. There is no visible policing – that’s what we need"

Toy shop owner Jason Hull

Ali Arif said children steal mobile phone cases and fidget spinners from his stall in full view. “This is like a game for them,” he said. “They are bored.

“You can’t even say anything because they are children. You call the police and they just let them go. We can’t hold them – if we try to hold them they will start to shout: ‘Call the police.’ We are basically helpless.

“You don’t want to go to work, because you don’t know when they are going to turn up.”

A display for a sofa company is a permanent feature in Kingsland Shopping Centre. Young people routinely socialise on the sofas after shops have closed. Picture: Emma BartholomewA display for a sofa company is a permanent feature in Kingsland Shopping Centre. Young people routinely socialise on the sofas after shops have closed. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Traders are threatening to march to Stoke Newington police station in protest, and Mr Hull has warned they could take matters into their own hands if nothing is done.

“Everyone is so frustrated about the inaction of the police,” he said. “There is no visible policing – that’s what we need.”

Neighbourhoods Insp Ian Simpkins admitted there is a “resourcing issue”.

"We haven’t got the resources to do everything and we are being pulled in many different directions. I recognise it is causing massive inconvenience to shopkeepers"

Insp Ian Simpkins

“In that any given time we might have 40 or 50 outstanding incidents, so if you get a call to a shoplifter it will take its place in the queue and decisions have to be taken on the priorities,” he told the Gazette. “We haven’t got the resources to do everything and we are being pulled in many different directions. I recognise it is causing massive inconvenience to shopkeepers.

“But there is a lot we can do and a lot we are in the process of doing, and a lot in the pipeline.”

He described how the problem with children extends from the market down to Dalston Square, and said his teams are diverting resources into the anti-social behaviour there this summer.

Kingsland Shopping Centre. Picture: Emma BartholomewKingsland Shopping Centre. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

McDonald’s, where a teen was stabbed on December 23, is said to be a particular hotspot for ASB. The store has posted three guards on the door because of “kids causing trouble”, according to one manager the Gazette spoke to.

Janette last week told McDonald’s managers her youth workers are ready to step in if needed. “Everyone knows there’s a bit of a problem around that area when it comes to the young people,” she said.

“But one person can’t deal with the problem themselves – it takes a village to raise a child. Kids are running amok because no one will chastise them.

McDonald's in Kingsland High Street, pictured, has hired security guards to 'protect customers and staff'. Picture: Emma BartholomewMcDonald's in Kingsland High Street, pictured, has hired security guards to 'protect customers and staff'. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

“As a community we need to create change. I’m not saying be vigilantes, but you should be able to detain a child and let the parent come.

“There is still such a thing as child protection but there is no protection for the adult – when did that happen?

“At the end of the day, children need to respect adults.”

McDonald's in Kingsland High Street has hired security guards to 'protect staff and customers'. Picture: Emma BartholomewMcDonald's in Kingsland High Street has hired security guards to 'protect staff and customers'. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

‘I tried to stop shoplifters – and got arrested’

One man who did try and stop a young suspected thief last week ended up getting banged up himself for 12 hours – after the boy accused him of stabbing him.

Eventually Abdul Karim was freed at 2am without charge.

He’d run after a boy who he says stole one of his £30 speakers on July 13.

He retrieved it but the child returned with 15 others, he claims. Two grabbed him before a neighbouring stallholder stepped in. But when police arrived the boy accused Mr Karim of stabbing him.

Later, when Mr Karim was in custody, the boys returned to his stall threatening to “f*** him up”.

The dad-of-two says he has called police again about the same boys walking “menacingly” past his stall every day since, carrying wooden shoe horns.

“The police chained me and everybody was looking at me but I had done nothing,” he said. “Now I’m panicking they might come from this side or that side.”


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