National Riots Panel told Camden shops are 'still suffering'
Published: 20 October 2011
by GEORGIA GRAHAM
THE chairman of the National Riots Panel has pledged to return to buy a pair of boots from a shop that was among Camden’s worst-hit during the unrest.
Darra Singh, head of the Jobcentre Plus, made the promise after hearing the story of Kitty Lai and her Camden Town shop LA1, which was ransacked during August’s riots.
Ms Lai told the visiting panel, which is investigating the impact of the unrest and finding ways of preventing it happening again, that she had spent a month without a till in her Chalk Farm Road shop and that sales were still struggling to get back to pre-riot levels.
She described sitting in the shop until 3am the night after the riots protecting what was left.
“We are down 50 per cent on sales from August and September last year,” said Ms Lai. “August is normally a really busy month with the tourists, but I have noticed a lot less tourists.
“I think people were really scared to go out after the riots.”
Matthew McMillan, from Camden Town Unlimited, said that a big fear for local businesses was that tourists who had not booked flights to London before the riots would rethink their holiday plans.
The panel, who have been appointed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, were also taken to Evans Cycles, also on Chalk Farm Road, which suffered £78,000 of damage.
Manager David Cheek told how police arrived, dispersed the youths and brought back 20 stolen bikes – only for to them to be stolen again when officers were called away to another incident.
Superintendent Roger Smalley told the panel: “We had about 70 police, mainly local police, not dressed in riot gear dealing with the whole of Camden Town.
“There were police at the shop but we were aware that the petrol station was being targeted and it was obviously important that we protect that so we were stretched.”
He added: “I realised very quickly that it was a shopping expedition – and the arrests we have made support that theory.
“They are, in many cases, the sort of people who you would not expect to be involved in crime. This was not about community against the police.”