Riots damage repaired but psychological scars remain
8:57am Tuesday 7th August 2012 in Riots: One year on
Although the physical damage done by last August's riots have been largely repaired deep psychological scars remain, both for individuals and the businesses which were damaged and looted.
A number of businesses told the Wandsworth Guardian they felt abandoned on the night by the police and remain concerned about the police's ability to cope if trouble flared again.
Tariq Aziz, who manages the Tanner Convenience Store in Battersea, damaged during the riots said: "All we want is to be assured that they [the police] will help us if it happens again.
"If the riots happened because of the recession and young people feeling abandoned then things haven't improved have they? So it could happen again couldn't it?"
A nearby shopkeeper who wanted to remain anonymous said: "It would’ve been nice to have a visit from the police to explain how they have improved their way of dealing with riots. They also said they would tell us if someone got charged although we have heard nothing yet."
But Chief Superintendent David Chinchen said: "The Met have learned many lessons following the terrible criminality that we all witnessed at Clapham Junction last year.
"We can mobilise much quicker, deploy far larger numbers of public order trained officer and we have reviewed and developed our approach to critical events that may result in a reaction across the community.
"Protecting young people from involvement in crime is at the heart of our strategy across the Community Safety Partnership we have in the borough."
Many businesses have received compensation and support for the damage done but lengthy delays in insurance payouts have made life very difficult.
Tony Braggins, manager of carpet shop HTE Braggins on St John's Hill said: "I clearly remember seeing my business being looted and smashed up on the television screen at home.
"But we only got our insurance money three weeks ago which means it has taken 11 months. I wish we had had some help from someone with that because that has cause big problems, we are a small business."
Another shopkeeper on St John's Hill said: "Since last summer there have been a lot of promises from the authorities but not a lot of support. The community rallied round as you saw with the broom army but once Boris left not much has happened.
"We had help from the council straight away which helped to fix the damage and get the business up and running again."
Lorinda Freint, Clapham Junction town centre manager said Wandsworth Council did its best to help many firms in the aftermath of the riots.
She said: "We gave businesses assistance with filling out forms, with them trying to make claims. We went around several times writing out letters and talking to people.
"We gave emergency loans for putting in windows but the most important thing was getting people back into business as soon as possible.
"We have also launched the Clapham Junction iPhone app. It doesn't cost anything, and businesses can go on it for free. They can change details and put up offers they have."
The leader of the council, Councillor Ravi Govindia, said "Our shop keepers – especially those who run their own independent businesses – were in desperate and immediate need of help. We provided grants to replace vital stocks and equipment, reduced business rates for the entire town centre and helped them complete their insurance claims."
Peter Dawson, Conservative Councillor for Northcote, said that residents too felt abandoned last August.
He said: "Talking to residents it is clear that the overriding feeling was fear. People were very, very frightened and didn't know what to expect next or where it would end.
"Many residential roads were on the front line of the disorder so many residents witnessed acts of looting, vandalism and even violence first hand.
"There was a feeling that the local community had been abandoned and not just at local level, at Met level."
Some residents worry that cuts to services that affect youngsters, combined with high youth unemployment are adding to the risks of a recurrence.
Paula Derby, 55, who moved away from Battersea after the riots, said: "I keep reading about playgrounds being shut and funding being stopped so what do they expect? I think its just waiting to happen again."
Bruce Edwards, 78, from Battersea, said: "It could happen again, because they're not treating the youngsters well. "There is too much unemployment. People will go violent - people will steal when you don't have anything in your pocket."
But Coun Govindia promised there would be "new investment in jobs and homes and a borough where more support is available to vulnerable households that need help and where everyone’s life chances are improved."