Colliers Wood looting
Colliers Wood. You’ve probably never heard of it. It’s a small place nestled between Wimbledon, Mitcham, Morden and Tooting. It’s in the borough of Merton and in the historic parish of Merton. It has a pig ugly tower painted black and some out of town style shopping centres. Nothing really happens here. Normally.
Last night something did. Sirens were blazing, reports coming in thick and fast of looting and arson. Colliers Wood was caught up in the London riots. Reports were coming in of looting at JD Sports, of Harveys and Mothercare being in flames.
Earlier in the day I’d read that the police were warning businesses of potential trouble, and that our giant Sainsburys and Marks and Spencers had closed up just after lunch, just in case.
Reading those reports at the time, it seemed like a complete over-reaction. Nothing happens here. The Borough of Merton has something like the fourth lowest crime rate in London. We get regular newsletters from our local police where the worst that is mentioned is a stolen bicycle or some minor graffiti. About nine months ago a Police Community Support Officer popped round to tell us to be alert as an ironing board had been stolen from next doors shed. The shed, incidentally, had been left unlocked. The chances that anything would seriously happen in the area felt slim.
Yet as the evening went on and as we watched in disbelief the various reports on the TV, the number of sirens in the area increased dramatically. Reports on Twitter from a local journalist told us attempted looting was going on at JD Sports, PC World and Argos. Soon neighbouring Harveys furniture store was on fire.
We live a few minutes walk from the two out of town style shopping centres of Colliers Wood. Outside, at various points, small hooded teenagers were milling around. As I stood at the window, one shrunk into the shadows as a car went past before heading out to boast to two teenage girls that “I woz at Brixton last night”. Nothing much was happening – why draw attention to themselves by moving the focus of police activity from the shops? – but the amount of shouting and running around in the area was noticeable.
By about 11 o’clock all had died down. Ironically this was just the time things really started kicking off in a big way in other parts of London.
The next morning Catherine and myself headed out on to the streets to survey the damage and to see if there was anything we could clean up. Thankfully the area was pretty unscathed.
The damage was highly targeted at a few stores. A small number of JD Sports coathangers on the pavement suggested that they’d got in there and apparently the nearby Argos was looted too. Clearly people had tried to rob Jessops, Currys and PC World but mostly failed. Instead most of the damage was on nearby stores – presumably attacked in frustration. Both Harveys and Mothercare are sandwiched between Currys and PC World. Both looked gutted by fire.
Similarly near Jessops the Coral betting shop had had its windows smashed in. But the neighbouring travel agent, Nandos and Starbucks were all intact, and Starbucks was busy serving coffee like nothing had happened, whilst two police man blocked off access to the main shopping centre car park. We’d come out to see if we could help clear anything up. Bar a few coathangers there wasn’t much to do.
Looking at it, it was hard not to conclude one thing and one thing only. Colliers Wood was certainly not the victim of riots. This was no mindless violence. It had nothing to do with protesting and nothing to do with someone being shot in Tottenham. Colliers Wood was the victim of highly targeted attempted (and no doubt, in some cases, successful) robbery and nothing more.
A lot of London has been severely damaged the last few days. Surveying the damage this morning, Colliers Wood has got off lightly. The fact that the police were, compared to most areas, relatively prepared, knew this was planned, no doubt helped.
As a policeman at the Tandem Centre told us, “There’s not much to do. Just keep smiling.”
It’s hard to do when your community has been attacked. But important. Colliers Wood, London, Britain. We must keep smiling. We must keep going on. We must not let these scumbags defeat us. They must not be allowed to and will not be allowed to win.
Update 11:36am – after a slightly closer inspection Harveys doesn’t seem to be as affected as I initially thought, however Mothercare certainly looks a mess.