Police in Norfolk have apologised for the way they responded to a weekend of rape, assault and theft that left a seaside town on ‘lawless lockdown’ last month.
Over the weekend of August 18, reports of disorder, which residents blamed on a group of travellers, left pubs, shops and restaurants closed in the town of Cromer.
Norfolk police initially called the incidents ‘low-level disturbance’ and would not blame the ‘travelling community as a whole’.
But they apologised for how the weekend handled at a town meeting this week and said they ‘misjudged’ the disorder.
Over the weekend of August 18, reports rape, assault and theft blamed on a group of more than 50 travellers left pubs, shops and restaurants closed in the town of Cromer, Norfolk
A total of 37 crimes were recorded in Cromer between August 18 and August 20.
Residents alleged that trouble erupted after more than 50 travellers in a convoy of about 20 vehicles illegally rolled on to Runton Road car park in the town on the afternoon of August 18.
‘There were a number of incidences of theft, of antisocial behaviour, of criminal damage, and we misjudged our message, and I’m sorry that we got that message wrong. We got it wrong. We’ll learn the lessons. It won’t happen again,’ Chief Constable Simon Bailey told the meeting.
The police force is reviewing its response to the disorder, which residents of Cromer said had ’caused them harm’, BBC reported.
‘Part of our review will look at our media messages. I’m genuinely sorry that we created the impression that this was a low-level disorder,’ Bailey said at the meeting.
He added: ‘We had a rape which, whilst at the time we didn’t connect to the group, we are now absolutely connecting.’
Residents alleged that trouble erupted after more than 50 travellers in a convoy of about 20 vehicles illegally rolled on to Runton Road car park in the town on the afternoon of August 18
Police had initially downplayed the crimes in a press release about the weekend, but received backlash from residents.
Previously, deputy chief constable Nick Dean said that it would be ‘totally disproportionate’ to blame the ‘travelling community as a whole’, but Norfolk Police later said it supported the view that members of the Travelling community were involved.
A number of shops and pubs were forced to close for the weekend amid anti-social-behaviour reports, including stealing and people refusing to pay.
One young woman reported a sexual assault – two men were arrested in connection to the attack and were released on bail on August 30.
Bailey’s apology was met with applause by residents at the meeting this week, though some said police didn’t do enough to protect the town.
Norfolk police initially called the incidents ‘low-level disturbance’ and would not blame the ‘travelling community as a whole’. But but they apologised for how the weekend handled at a town meeting this week and said they ‘misjudged’ the disorder
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb visited Cromer after the weekend of incidents and said he was ‘very concerned’ about what he had heard
Resident Aryun Nessa Uddin, who claimed the group caused chaos in her popular Indian restaurant Masala Twist, told BBC that police ‘watched the whole ordeal and didn’t come to my help’.
She said she’s now on anti-depressants and has lost all faith in the police force.
Her husband, Nashim, said last month that about 40 travellers stormed in to join their noisy pals already in his busy restaurant.
The businessman tried to get the gang to leave after they ‘frightened and intimidated’ other guests.
Mr Uddin says he began pushing the thugs out backed up by his nephew Jamil Ahmed and wife Ayrun Nessa-Uddin.
But he accused police, who also had a dog, of standing back and watching as the astonishing drama unfolded just feet away.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb visited the restaurant after the weekend of disorder.
When he news of the disorder, he tweeted: ‘Very concerned by what I’ve read online tonight. Of course happy to support people in Cromer in any way I can.’
POLICE CALLED TO AT LEAST SIX INCIDENTS IN COASTAL TOWN
Some locals attributed the arrival of groups of travellers to the disorder and pubs announced on social media that they were closing early.
- Police were called on Friday August 18 to five incidents of theft, three from shops and two from local pubs. Neither of the pubs wished to take the matter forward
- Officers were later called to a group of people who were standing on the middle of a road, however they had dispersed by the time police arrived
- At around 11.30pm that same night, police were called to Cromer Social Club where a large group had gathered and refused to leave when asked
- Police received a number of reports of shoplifting and low-level anti-social behaviour
- At around 5pm officers were called to a pub after after another large group refused to leave
- Police were then told that other pubs in the area were compelled to close their doors at 7pm
- Officers were called at around 7.15pm following reports people had taken drink from a restaurant without paying
- Shortly after 8.50pm, police were called to a private bar at a caravan park after a large group entered and again refused to leave when asked by the manager.
- Officers ‘engaged’ with the group who later left.
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