Businesses are bracing themselves for raids by “gangs of youths” allegedly inspired by a TikTok video blamed for disorder erupting in Oxford Street this week.
Nine people were arrested after the incident in central London’s famous shopping street on Wednesday as the Home Secretary insisted those responsible should be “hunted down and locked up”.
Now Broadway Shopping Centre in Bexleyheath, south east London, has ramped up security amid concerns of a similar incident.
A letter was sent to businesses by Broadway Shopping Centre on Friday which read: “Many of you will have seen on social media the potential threat of stores being targeted by gangs of youths who intend to steal stock.
“They are targeting specific towns and Bexleyheath has been listed for this coming Saturday, 12 August.
“While this may come to nothing, we have chosen to take the threat seriously in order that we cover every eventuality.”
Image: Officers seen outside Broadway Shopping Centre in Bexleyheath amid concerns businesses could be targeted It added: “We will be increasing the number of guards within the shopping centre, ensuring that one is positioned at each main entrance.
“If we see that there is any trouble outside we will shut all entrances until everything calms down.”
On Wednesday, footage showed baton-wielding police officers clashing with people in Oxford Street, which Suella Braverman likened to “lawlessness seen in American cities”.
Shops were forced to barricade their doors and lock customers inside during the looting, said to be inspired by a social media craze encouraging people to take part in an “Oxford Street JD robbery”.A post on TikTok appeared to promote an organised “robbery” of an Oxford Street store, with a date, time and even a dress code.
Image: Police officers on Oxford Street on Wednesday Two people were held in Essex for conspiracy to commit robbery following the online social media posts, while seven others were arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and going equipped to steal.
Police also issued 34 dispersal orders, banning people from the area for 48 hours.
Rai Holdstock, manager of Broadway Shopping Centre, said: “We don’t know what will happen in terms of numbers coming in but the police are confident they will control it.
“The letter is just allaying the fears of employees that are working in the centre because we put their concerns first and foremost.
Image: A suspect being handcuffed during the incident “So it was just to say don’t worry, plenty of police are around and they’ll be able to control the situation, but hopefully it won’t happen.”
Extra police have been drafted in with shop employees advised to close their stores if trouble starts.
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A Section 35 dispersal order is in place until 4pm on Sunday, giving officers the power to stop people entering the area.
This afternoon, Bexley Police posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the town centre was “open as normal” and dismissed reports it was “on lockdown”.
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The force added: “A dispersal order is in place in case of any anti-social behaviour and anyone who commits a criminal offence will be dealt with by our officers.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson there would be an increased policing presence in Bexley town centre this weekend following speculation of anti-social behaviour.
“Anyone who does take part in criminal activity will be dealt with,” they added.