Like many other residents returning home from a hard day’s work on that mild August evening in Croydon, I was forced to witness horrendous acts of mindless vandalism and violence targeted at the very fabric of my local community. Local shops were burned, windows smashed and armies of thugs lined the streets, intimidating passers-by and throwing rocks at Police. Already the skyline of the town centre was filled with huge plumes of black smoke and burglar alarms and sirens rang out along the streets of ransacked shops.
Whilst those on the left would have you believe that the perpetrators of these atrocities were simply ‘victims’ who had been dealt a bad hand in life and needed to be heard, the reality for those on the ground was very different. The selfish thugs that looted and burnt down some of town’s most historic buildings and terrorised innocent members of the public did so because they wanted to – and they enjoyed doing it.
There have been mountains of paperwork, essays and data analysis conducted to try and find an excuse for the rioters’ actions in the summer. Social, economic and cultural angles have been explored, graphs produced and pie charts formed. The reality is of course that many of those involved in these atrocities had a well-documented criminal history along with a complete disregard for their communities and neighbours.
Little attention was given to the numbers of victims impacted by the riots. For example, a shocking 100 Croydon households – many with young families – lost their homes or were unable to return home because of the vandalism inflicted. This is something we need to bear in mind when allegations of ‘harsh criminal sentences’ are levied at the courts.
I was proud and inspired to see hundreds of volunteers lining the streets with their brooms at the ready, to work with the Council, Police and local residents to assist the clean-up operation. In the first few months Croydon Council provided £90,000 in grants to those who lost their homes in the riots. Approximately 280 businesses across the borough were directly impacted by the disorder, doing tremendous damage to the local economy. In response the Council has put in place a comprehensive £1 million Business Support Fund to help the recovery.
As Conservatives, we must not falter on a tough agenda of law and order. Our response and the lengthy sentences accompanying it sent a clear signal to those looking to engage in criminal activity that this mindless thuggery cannot and will not be tolerated. The public’s strong and cohesive response proved beyond doubt that those behind these atrocities were very much in the minority.
As you walk around Croydon town centre it is hard to believe that last August’s atrocities ever took place, but a poignant reminder are the dozens of post-it notes containing personal messages of support for the town written by local residents and displayed in the Green Dragon- one of Croydon’s local pubs.
As well as initiating a Croydon regeneration drive to the tune of £23 million, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson and Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell have publicly called for residents to help make our town great again.
Wasting time ‘reading’ the riots will not solve the problem, but a strong stance on law and order will help deter criminals and opportunists from terrorising our communities in the future.
Our town is once again a vibrant, modern and forward looking place to be. With strong leadership and an overwhelming sense of community spirit, it is time for Croydon to look forward to an exciting and optimistic 2012.
You can follow Clare on twitter @clarehilley and read her blog at: www.thehilleyblog.blogspot.com