TikTok looting: 48-hour dispersal order for Bexleyheath
Police in London are braced for further TikTok-inspired flashmob looting this weekend days after chaotic scenes saw police and youths clash in Oxford Street.
A warning has been issued for Bexleyheath in south-east London, with one shopping centre in the area saying there was a threat of it being 'targeted by gangs of youths'.
The Metropolitan Police has vowed to increase its presence in the area after 'social media speculation' and has put a dispersal order in place giving officers increased powers to deal with anti-social behaviour over the weekend.
It comes as cops in Southend-on-Sea clamped down on an apparent copycat invasion that had been planned for the seaside resort, with fears of a repeat of a mass gathering that led to a mass brawl on a beach last week.
Officers from Essex Police took no chances though, as they turned away scores of balaclava-clad youths after they arrived on Thursday afternoon at Southend Central station on a train from London.
This week's dramatic scenes on Oxford Street have sparked fears that US-style flashmob looting could become more commonplace in Britain and organised on social media apps.
Crowds gathered in Europe's busiest shopping street on Wednesday after posts circulated on TikTok and Snapchat urging users to rob JD Sports. Nine people were arrested and Scotland Yard issued 34 dispersal orders, banning offenders from the area for 48 hours.
In dramatic scenes cops wielding batons were seen chasing after youths and handcuffing suspected troublemakers in front of shocked shoppers, while some stores were forced to close their doors amid the mayhem.
It is believed there could be repeat scenes in another part of London this weekend, amid rumours on social media of another event in Bexleyheath.
One shopping centre, Bexleyheath Broadway, said it intended to put additional security staff on patrol this weekend to deal with any unruliness.
In a statement reported by News Shopper, it said: '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 12th August.
'Whilst this may come to nothing, we have chosen to take the treat seriously in order that we cover every eventually.
'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.
'For those who trade front facing on the Square, please be assured that extra police will be patrolling throughout the day and the BID is ordering extra private security personnel who will work alongside the police to keep everyone safe.
'If you see any activity outside that concerns you then we would encourage you to close your doors until trouble subsides.'
Meanwhile, the Met has put a dispersal order in place for Welling and Bexleyheath Broadway which went into effect at 4pm on Friday, August 11, and is set to last until 4pm on Sunday, August 13.
This gives means officers can order people suspected of causing trouble or intending to commit anti-social behaviour to leave the area, and allows them to arrest people if they don't comply.
There were fears the violence seen in London on Wednesday could spread to Southend after troublemakers urged copycats to 'get lit' on the beach.
Essex Police set up a dispersal zone for 48 hours from Thursday, giving officers the power to turn people away and stop them gathering in an area around the city centre and seafront.
It followed a viral social media post which urged followers to head to Southend's beaches and 'get lit' which is slang for partying and getting intoxicated with alcohol or drugs or both.
Rumours were rife that some gang members had last week armed themselves with water pistols containing acid to spray rivals at the event, dubbed the Southend Motive on social media.
A shopkeeper on the seafront who asked not to be named said: 'It was chaos here last Tuesday (August 1). There were hundreds of kids running around.
'They were threatening each other and fights were starting. We heard them saying that some had acid in their water pistols.
'Another lad was saying, 'We are going to shoot our enemies, and if we can't shoot enemies, we will shoot at random'.
'One girl landed up in an ambulance, and the cops were trying desperately to keep things under control. The next door shop closed at 4.30pm and we stuck it out until 6.30pm.
'It's just not fair. It is giving Southend a bad name. Thank goodness, the police are taking it seriously.'