Cromer disorder: Police 'misread' traveller threat

Disorder in Cromer Image copyright YouTube
Image caption Mobile phone footage showed police in Cromer dealing with trouble on the streets

Police failed to properly deal with disorder in a seaside town because senior officers "misread the significance of events", a report says.

A Norfolk Police review into why Cromer went into "lawless lockdown" after 100 travellers visited was instigated by the chief constable.

Pubs, shops and restaurants closed over the weekend of 19 August following reports of rape, theft and assault.

Poor "information flow" was blamed for the failure to deploy extra officers.

In a statement, the force outlined the recommendations of its review, identifying four areas of concern over leadership, the sharing of intelligence, not scanning social media correctly and officers failing to utilise powers to deal with unauthorised traveller encampments.

The findings said officers were notified by Suffolk Police a group of travellers had left Lowestoft after being involved in a disturbance there, and was heading for the county.

'Ill-judged statement'

However, "the information and actions were not recorded on official systems" which meant it was not shared with key senior staff across the Norfolk force.

Public information on social media about the level of threat was ignored, with commanders not realising the effect the travellers' presence and behaviour was having on the community and "as a result insufficient additional resources were deployed".

Officers at the scene were therefore outnumbered and "unable to take positive action" to deal with 37 reported offences over the weekend, the report found.

The review found senior officers also put out "an ill-judged statement on social media referring to the disorder as 'low-level'".

Chief Constable Simon Bailey said "We've truly come to understand the power of social media."

Image caption Cromer Pier said its Theatre Bar was closed because of the disorder

The travellers arrived in Cromer at the end of the town's festival week.

According to the Chief Constable the group are not popular among the wider travelling community.

Restaurants and pubs including the Theatre bar on Cromer Pier closed early following reports on social media of thefts and anti-social behaviour.

The findings said "These decisions combined meant that the travellers were not moved on quickly enough."

Image caption Chief Constable Simon Bailey held a meeting to discuss the police response to the disorder

Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: "We got this wrong and I feel terribly sorry that the people of Cromer feel let down by our response.

"If we'd drawn together the intelligence that was available and was known at the time and in different pockets of the organisation... we'd be in a very different position," he said.

The chief constable also said resources were stretched that weekend as the force was "in the middle of investigating" the killing of dog walker Peter Wrighton, in East Harling, "which left us exposed".

The review was welcomed by Laurie Scott, of Breakers cafe, who applauded the chief constable's "openness and honesty" in admitting they made mistakes.

"If a similar incident were to happen in Cromer tomorrow, I'm confident the police would be all over it like a rash," he said.

Image caption Aryun Nessa Uddin said officers in three cars watched while she and her family tried to remove aggressive people from their restaurant, the Masala Twist

Nashim Uddin, of the Masala Twist restaurant, said he hoped "police stick to what they've recommended and don't brush this under the carpet".

A further independent review of the decisions made by individual commanders is still being carried out by Cumbria Police.

"Any specific recommendations regarding leadership actions and decisions will be implemented once the independent review by Cumbria has been completed," the statement said.

Norfolk Police said a number of crimes committed over the weekend are still being investigated.

Two men have arrested and bailed in connection with a rape.

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