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Fears TikTok shoplifting rampage craze to spread to south London and Essex this weekend after Oxford Street chaos
12 August 2023, 10:13
Shopkeepers and residents of parts of south London and Essex are bracing for the worst this weekend amid fears that the social media shoplifting trend that struck Oxford Street could spread.
A shopping centre in Bexleyheath, south-east London, appears to be the target of a series of videos on TikTok calling for more shoplifting.
And balaclava-clad social media users have also urged people to "get lit" on the beach in Southend-on-Sea in Essex.
Police said they are taking action in both cases.
The Met Police has issued a dispersal order for Bexleyheath and Welling in a bid to protect the Broadway shopping centre. The centre itself told shop bosses that they were hiring extra security.
"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," a message to tenants said.
"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."
Meanwhile Essex Police set up a dispersal zone in the town until Saturday lunchtime to stop the social media trend spreading.
It covers areas such as Southend High Street, Marine Parade, Pier Hill, Western Esplanade and Southend Central train station.
It comes after videos appeared on social media promoting plans for a "mass shoplifting" event at 3pm on Wednesday, resulting in multiple clashes between the police and youths on the central London street.
Scuffles broke out between young people and police officers in central London on Wednesday after the calls online.
A heavy police presence arrived at the shopping hotspot, with some officers mounted on horseback.
Nine people were arrested in Oxford Street and central London and 34 dispersal orders were issued.
Police have the power to give dispersal orders, which pose a temporary ban on people visiting an area, to anybody they suspect is behaving anti-socially.
Southend Chief Supt Waheed Khan warned said: “Anyone coming to Southend planning on causing trouble, please think twice, it won't be tolerated and you'll be arrested.”
It follows demands from Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Thursday to "hunt down and lock up" those behind the disorder on Oxford Street and central London.
Braverman tweeted on Thursday: "We cannot allow the kind of lawlessness seen in some American cities to come to the streets of the UK.
"The police have my full backing to do whatever necessary to ensure public order.
"Those responsible must be hunted down & locked up. I expect nothing less from the @metpoliceuk and have requested a full incident report."
A Met spokesman said on Wednesday evening: “As of 20.15hrs officers have arrested 34 people with dispersal orders and made nine arrests.
“Four people were arrested on suspicion of breaching the dispersal order, one person was arrested on suspicion of going equipped to steal, one person arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer, and one person was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence.
“Earlier in the afternoon, officers arrested two people in Essex for conspiracy to commit robbery following online social media posts.”
Youths in Oxford Street rampage must be ‘hunted down’, says Braverman
Footage taken by LBC on Wednesday shows two young men being detained on Oxford Street, with police bringing one person to the ground.
Four more officers restrained another young man outside McDonald's on the street as a crowd gathered there.
Boots and Sports Direct briefly shut.
Sadiq Khan had urged people who saw the social media videos to stay away."Do not allow yourself to be sucked into an area that could be a high-crime area," the mayor of London said.
The videos told users to go to Oxford Street and wear balaclavas and gloves as part of the "dress code".
Targets included JD Sports as users were told to "rob" shops.
One advert said: "Don't come if you can't run."