Masked teen gang on the rampage in London Colney
- Credit: Archant
A gang of masked teenagers armed with baseball bats are running rampage through a village shopping parade, leaving residents terrified and intimidated.
The young thugs - sometimes 14 strong and armed with weapons - have been wreaking havoc in London Colney; stealing goods and abusing and intimidating people at a parade of shops which open after dark.
Every night for the last few months, the gang has gathered on Haseldine Road from 7pm to terrorise shops along the strip, and it is feared they are becoming more reckless.
Last week London Colney parish council (LCPC) held a meeting to discuss the escalating problem, with affected residents and shop owners speaking out about their experiences.
One business said they had tried to put a limit on the number of people coming in at any one time, but this restriction had not helped tackle the crime spree, the meeting heard.
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Shop owners told councillors they have lost revenue, either because other patrons are afraid to come inside after seeing the group hanging around or because they have had to close early.
Co-op store manager Mo Chowdhury, said: “They come into our store with their faces covered, with masks and balaclavas, picking things up and shoplifting, and every night they get more abusive and threatening.
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“We tried to hire a security guard, but he called me on my mobile at 10pm to say he was leaving because he was so scared.”
Mo says his staff are refusing to work in the evenings, and he had to console a terrified employee who did not want to walk home after his shift had finished.
He added: “I have been here almost two years and until recently I have never had any issues - we have had shoplifters but they are not abusive, if you confront them they just leave - but these boys are something else.
“They are minors, but they are not minor enough, they should be dealt with properly, I mean, some of them are about 17 years old.”
He says there is one ringleader, whose identity he knows, egging the rest on.
In desperation, Mo spoke to two police community police officers about the problem, and they have organised a community meeting on April 28.
In a recent incident on Wednesday April 12, the masked gang ran into the Co-op at around 9.20pm - tearing around the store and stealing confectionary and soft drinks.
Herts Police officers came to break up the abusive mob, which they described as a “disturbance”.
On another occasion, one of the gang picked up an Easter egg, deliberately held up the chocolate to CCTV cameras, and walked out of the shop without paying.
LCPC chairman, Cllr Malcolm MacMillan, said: “Residents are shocked and intimidated that this has happened.
“It’s not just anti-social, it’s worse - people are disbelieving, they just don’t believe it would happen here and it’s getting worse and worse.”
He said he did not want to scare people, but described the issue as “serious”.
“It was a raid and it’s not healthy for the community, we need to stamp down on it first of all.”
LCPC has asked for an urgent meeting with youth workers and have written to the Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, asking for a greater presence in the area - measures which Cllr MacMillan described as “tough love”.
St Albans Safer Neighbourhood Team (SASNT) said they are aware of this incident, and also of any repeat offenders, and are looking into taking further action.
Insp Adam Such of the SASNT said: “Officers were quickly sent to the scene and the group was dispersed.
“We will not tolerate anti-social behaviour and are currently looking at issuing anti-social behaviour contracts for repeat offenders and are working with the families of certain individuals to put a permanent stop to problems.”
He encouraged people to report any anti-social behaviour on 101, or in an emergency, on 999.