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Under siege by yobs

SHOP workers and commuters have become the target of terrifying attacks from a gang of youths in Belvedere.

Worcester News: CLAMPDOWN: Police stop and search a band of youths at Belvedere railway station on Saturday night CLAMPDOWN: Police stop and search a band of youths at Belvedere railway station on Saturday night

Staff at the new B&Q store in Lower Road have been shot at with air rifles and threatened with knives.

And commuters getting off at Belvedere railway station have also been subjected to random shootings and pelted with eggs as they try to get home.

In one incident at the B&Q store, a boy, aged only 12, was arrested for threatening a member of staff with a knife.

The problem is now so serious Bexleyheath police's crime and disorder team moved into the area this week in a high-profile operation.

Belvedere councillor Daniel Francis has been trying to deal with the problem for the last 18 months.

He told the News Shopper: "There is a large gang of youths who mainly come from the area. Most of them just intimidate people by being part of a large group but there is a small hard core who carry air weapons and knives and who use them to threaten and frighten people.

"They openly walk the streets carrying air guns."

He said staff at B&Q have been shot at from the railway lines to frighten them off while other gang members steal from the delivery lorries.

Some staff have been threatened with knives by the gang. Staff at other shops and pubs in the area are also the target of the gang's threats and intimidation.

"I was driving past and saw a man get out of his car to go into a shop," said Cllr Francis.

"Some of the gang immediately got onto the car and started jumping on it and kicking it, and I called the police. It has been devastating for trade in the area."

He added: "The problem has been around for more than a year, but it has grown and grown."

Now the police, <a href="">Bexley Council</a>, Connex, B&Q and Orbit (Bexley) Housing Association are working together to put a stop to the gang's activities.

Already Connex has hired an ex-police officer to staff the railway station after 1.30pm when it would normally be unmanned.

And <a href="">Bexley Council</a> is cutting back the trees at the back of the B&Q store to allow CCTV cameras to be installed.

Now the police's crime and disorder team have moved in and will be using overt videoing and questioning any young people on the streets in the area.

They will also be sending letters to parents of young people stopped, and will also make use of Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and, if necessary Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.

Police, who have also sent out questionnaires, are anxious, as in a similar situation at Slade Green, local people come forward with names and details of specific incidents.

No-one was available from B&Q for comment.

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