Dixon of Camberwell Green

The South London Press says the police station (or ‘cop shop’) is in trouble again. Anybody heard anything? Anyone work out why, when three of the top five street crime hotspots are around this area, they want a police presence reduced even further?

Update: Here’s the article in question.

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

41 thoughts on “Dixon of Camberwell Green”

  1. “We need plenty of sink estates, food deserts, and commuter communities, and we can’t achieve that without a healthy level of crime, preferably violent. The police station has to go.

    That way, we keep house prices lower and more affordable for poorer people, whose interests we have to represent, otherwise zones 1 and 2 will just be full of toffs”.

    (Overheard — a conversation between local representatives and government strategists)

  2. Oh grief. Here we go.

    Who could possibly argue that to do anything other than reopen the station fully isn’t necessary?? Maybe they wouldn’t be able to handle the workload!

    Aren’t we currently “served” by stations in Peckham and Elephant? Hardly practical. I put a call in to our beat officers’ mobile early last week (not long after 6pm) because a group of kids were hassling passers by and letting off rockets at knee height along Church Street. Perfect job for beat officers, not worthy of a 999 call (and what would having sirens blaring 20 minutes later achieve?) It went straight to voicemail. I left a message. They called me back yesterday.

    There is quite often, though, a police presence on Church Street. In cars doing 50mph in opposite directions. I’ve seen this a few times. Er, why doesn’t the one whizzing towards Peckham deal with the incident happening where they’re coming from and vice versa? Just a thought.

  3. I wonder if Camberwell isn’t some social experiment in anarchy; reducing the level of government and police involvement gradually, seeing if we come up with systems to rule ourselves in the absence of authority.

  4. Tell me about it. It’s as if someone really important really doesn’t like us!

    I think we should make Harriet Harman patrol the area.

  5. Camila is interesting about the kids who unsettle us. She’ll be on Desert Island Discs again at 9.05 a.m. on Friday. She says they’re like suicide bombers. In effect they’re hell-bent on going to Feltham, they have nothing to lose and destructive status to gain. They need love, she says, as though it is something simple than can come from the barrel of a gun to sort ’em out. Meanwhile, her set-up is advised on restraint of violent youths by the Dalai Lama’s minder. He is no mug, it must be said.

    At the same time we are told the youth justice system is overloaded and Barnardo’s say kids are demonised. According to the IPPR report just out 34% of us would intervene with 14-year-olds wrecking a bus shelter compared with 65% in Germany and half the people in Italy and Spain.

    The government have relied on market forces to shake the country down. Far from being a “hard choice” for them they have surfed the value of money rather than building schools, say, and letting teachers teach and children learn something valuable and grow up. They rely on the police for street-cleaning and on prisons for housing. Meanwhile there is the background of violent shock-and-awe dolings-out abroad as an example to the young of the iron fist. Then big entertainment businesses like football clubs, mobile phone and pop music companies give us daft role models, people who are flash and empty, cool and diffident.

    We have affluence on the cheap. It’s not just Camberwell, it’s the whole country — many people make a lot of money, but most people do not breathe easy. There is more building than ever, but less to look up to.

  6. I’ve always found that Brixton police station serve the Lambeth end of Camberwell very weel — they’ve been great and very quick to respond when i’ve had to call them out — however i suppose that’s not a reason for shutting down Camberwell Police station.

  7. @Dagmar: fantastic! What a great discourse!

    I was in my local Chinese takeaway last night, along with a group of 6 or so local boys. They were being pretty boisterous and loud, and stood closer to me than is reasonable, not actively threatening but almost daring me to make a response.

    I did consider leaving, but I wondered what message that would send. Instead I stood my ground, didn’t look away and carried on waiting for my food. They were fine. They didn’t cause any trouble, and I left without incident.

  8. Sometimes it feels like it’s all gone ‘A Clockwork Orange’ around us and I feel frightened of walking down my street or through the park even in daylight.

    There was a group of about eight teenage girls and boys throwing around a hammer and smashing down fences with it as I walked home through central Camberwell last week. They were terrifying. Who is going to intervene with eight rampaging hoodies with a hammer? No-one with the remotest shred of common sense or self preservation.

  9. I may just have October mithering syndrome, Peter. Autumn can be difficult, especially when the police say they’re closing down our local police station for our security. When it was a real copshop, it was invaluable for its Camberwick Green sense of oh, there are coppers in there.

    Maybe that’s silly. In deepest Cornwall, if you call the emergency services you’re put through to big, shiny, computery place miles away in Exeter and the system works fine as long as you know which postcode you’re standing in.

    Was that takeway the Ming Wah near the Bickleigh or Dragon Wok? That Ming Wah stretch of shops always reminds me of cowboy towns in westerns. Or maybe a mediaeval Chinese village — the mops hanging out to dry in the yard look like severed heads. Now that would be a deterrent…

    There is conflicting advice about eye contact. Some say give it, it means you’re not scared. Others say it demonstrates assertive distance.

    Dear oh dear, I must cheer up.

    OK, the Radio 4 website had Camila’s favourite book on Desert Island Discs as Sartre’s “Being and Nothingless”. That should be “Being and Nothingness.” Nothingless! Wonderful. I can see the decapitated mops at the Ming Wah baring their teeth in crazy, screeching laughter. “Aiee! The Dark Horse, the Bickleigh, the Windsor Walk fine houses and the copshop are all empty — nothingless! — heeeeeeeeee!!!!”

  10. You have my utter e‑pathy, Amanda. But that’s why we need some pretty deep thinking and action throughout the UK. What could the over-paperworked, over-policied police do? Stop them, yes, scare them, let’s hope so — that’s almost as good as love — except they’re not supposed to these days. It’s tricky. There is a big case for thinking as the mops do at Ming Wah: “Forget it — it’s Chinatown, innit.”

  11. It was the Dragon Wok. Ming Wah is too forbidding.

    Re: eye contact. I give, but don’t hold too long; just enough to show I’m not scared, not enough to look challenging.

    Walk with your head up, look around you, don’t be afraid. We have nothing to fear but fear itself! Hug a hoodie!

  12. @Amanda: When I was a kid I wasn’t averse to a bit of petty vandalism, and hung around in a large, threatening-looking mob with likeminded friends. However, it was mostly due to boredom; we had nowhere to go, and had to amuse ourselves. I daresay it’s the same for the kids you saw; boredom and lack of options, rather than any malicious intent. As soon as I grew up, got a job and a place of my own, that all stopped.

  13. Somerfield blues. The Spar shop that replaced the small Somerfield attached to the Peckham Road petrol station is awful. They sell a French wine called La Terre for £2.99 which doesn’t even taste of soil like cheap wine can, it tastes of bog cleaner with cheap perfume. The old shop had piped Enya-type music as well as genuine bargains. One of the last ones I got was a litre of Harvey’s pale sherry for £4.50, but I’m not sure what to do with it and anyway, Lucas Gardens now closes at 5pm.

  14. Does our the Council Tax we pay not entitle us to a police presence in Camberwell then? I’m pretty sure that in the last couple of years the percentage which goes to the Met has risen sharply, or is it just my imagination? So we pay for a police presence and then don’t get one — facinating logic…

  15. Did anyone else hear/see fireworks go off Monday night? I could see them from our attic window and it looked like they were being set off in the area around Coldharbour Lane and the Corner Surgery (maybe a bit further west?), not exactly an area with lots of open space. It was quite loud and the explosions were quite close together, making me wonder if this was an accident or a prank or worse.

  16. @Dagmar: I agree, a drop in quality. The few reasons it was better than the Spar on Vestry Rd — selection of wine, decent bread, soya milk — have all gone. Rotten.

    @Stacy: There are fireworks going off every night at the moment. I believe it’s Diwali time, and also pretty close to Guy Fawkes night.

  17. Here is the local cop shop number — 0207 7031 212. If you see any petty crime, including fireworks being let off horizontally down the street, report it, and even if the police don’t come immediately it will end up on their crime stats, and if they go up you ultimately get more police. Zero tolerance to petty crime and generally moaning alot means you get more public services, and in this case more police. ‘the squeeky wheel gets the grease’ etc. Give your Camberwell friends the Police number, tell them to use it, and we can see our police presence increase alot.

    Copeywolf, I agree you always see them racing around in cars, presumably making sure they get to front of the kebab shop queue, but never walking around ‘on the beat’ in Camberwell.

  18. Stacy — it’s Diwali and Eid at the mment as well as nearly November 5th and of course the tendancy of people round here to set off fireworks in the street for the whole of October! So there will be a lot of fireworks at the moment.

    I don;t mid the little firework displays but as we get nearewr to November 5th i find the street fireworks very worrying and a little scary. Last year over November 5th travelling back form Greenwich after watching the Blackheath fireworks i had to wak through several crowds of teenagers letting off fireworks in the streets of Peckham and Camberwell — i wasn’t very happy about it at all.

    Luckily this year i shall be in Scotland so hopefully won’t have to deal with any of this nonsense!!

  19. I do have to admit to spending periods of my youth doing exactly the same… and that wasn’t on the mean streets of Camberwell, but in a small market town. I’m certainly not condoning it. But for teenage boys there’s always an element of things exploding being a draw (ummm…)

    Antisocial yes, but by no means confined to some feral, disallusioned element…

  20. as a teenager in the mean streets of suburban derby i used to take part in annual firework fights, (and once spent a summer making IRA style pipe bombs with very effective results.) So i know a fair bit about boredom and the fun of making things go KA-BOOM.

    Personally i think it’s insane to sell any kind of explosives to the public. Fireworks should be banned and if the camberwell youth are so passionate about a 17th catholic plot to assassinate James I, they can bugger off to an organised display and stop terrifying and endangering people trying to get home from work.

  21. Bloody hell squidder, which mean street in particular? In my youth I too was a derby lad.

    To be honest I think we all hung around in intimidating groups of young ruffians as kids, the key difference I’ve noticed more recently being the liklihood that the gang of kids will shout abuse at passing adults. We always restricted our badmouthing to one another and were fairly deferential (if a little cheeky) to any grown-up who stopped to chat/tell us off/threaten to report us to the police.

    I’m sure there are a lot of socio-economic factors in all of this but (at risk of sounding like a blue-blooded tory) there seems to be an obvious lack of respect around, not just boredom.

    Hey ho, I have to say I’ve always felt safe in Camberwell and generally had good banter with the kids. Especially one who, on spying me finishing my evening run one night followed me home and asked in a very concerned voice what was wrong with me, and who was I running away from. Brilliant.

  22. The ones that are really getting to me at the moment are the little b*stards on trains and buses who opt to play their MP3/Ipod/Phone music at full volume, it’s an aggressive, anti-social and confrontational thing to do that just seems designed to upset people, they know full well no-one wants to hear it, they’re doing it deliberately to upset and annoy people, and to give them an excuse to sound off and even get violent if someone’s naive enough to ask them to stop. Almost every bus/train I get at the moment has a bunch of nasty little scumbags doing this. There were some on my train from Vauxhall to Kew this morning having a go at an old gent who tried to stop them playing rap music in a ‘designated quiet zone’. I resent having to share airspace with them. >:-(

  23. On more than one occasion I have said to kids playing their crunk/grime/dubstep/whatever through their mobiles on the 436, “That music sounds shit without any bass. How can you listen to it without the bass?” They just kiss their teeth in response but the moral victory is mine.

  24. Wouldn’t have happened on the old Routemasters.

    I’ll stop going on about their passing in about ten years. When I’m doing up some derelict little place out of the Big Smoke near hills and a forest. Having said that, I came here for a year twelve years ago and am late for everything…

  25. They were going for about £12k quite recently. Imagine converting it to LPG — that would be such a combo of retrospective London and future emissions consciousness that the investor could retire on the tourist route of his choice.

  26. I quite fancied the idea of getting one and using it as my own personal bus … just for me! If i was feeling particularly mean i’d drive it (or in an ideal world be driven) along particularly busy bus routes

  27. Hi

    I’m pretty sure you have all missed the bus, as it were, regarding buying an old bus. As far as I know all of the decommissioned RM’s have been sold. And I hope you didn’t pay 12k for yours regeneguru..

    I did a bit of a post about it at


    and you can still have a read.

    My sister taught photography at Glasgow school of art in the 80’s, and used to spend the summer touring in a routemaster round the western isles, whith a tiny prosc theatre downstars, and a kiln and colapsible dark room upstairs. They would park up in villages for three or four days at a time and run art/drama/craft classes, on a contract from the Scottish Ed Dept. Rural diyll or what?

    If any of you seriously want to buy one, I’ll put out some feelers…

    Chin Chin


  28. I once toured Europe in an old Routemaster bus. I was working for London Transport, and I persuaded them to loan me the bus. I went with a group of friends, and met some American girls on the way. We sang lots of songs and put on impromptu shows.

  29. We hired a Routemaster ten year ago to take guests to our wedding ceremony, and bring them back again to the reception in our house. Great fun. The wedding video shows a lady carrying shopping bags trying to get onto the bus while it was parked in Peckham Road waiting for the guests to pile on.

  30. We could put into a pot and buy a Routemaster together, convert it, hire it out.

    But why?

    Those little electric cars I’ve seen around locally are very cute.

    But then I suppose it’s a social thing…

  31. Maybe we could forget this whole SE5Forum business and use all the funds raised so far to buy a Routemaster and drive us all to Margate for the summer.

  32. I hear that Margate will be the next big thing on the coast. Could we abandon SE5 and make a mass exodus to Margate? Went to Margate a few weeks ago to see the Burning Man, an 80ft tall pile of rubbish the building of which was supervised by Antony Gormley, which, incidentally was part of a Channel 4 film called… Exodus!

    My camera, with all the pics of the burning moment, got nicked at a car boot sale in Kent the next day.

    I Prefer Hastings myself.

  33. Hi Peter and others,

    Just to say that Ming Wah is my local takeaway and I have been going there for since 1981. My husband taught the children of the owners and every Chinese New Year they bring us Oranges, sherry and biscuits, taking their shoes off at the door as a mark of respect as they enter. Mr Ming Wah has an allotment-we swop news on vegetables and how the seasons are good and bad. The youths you see hanging out on the corners are my son’s friends. They come to my house often, bringing me flowers bought from the garage at the bottom of the road on my birthday. The old West Indian men hanging out iutside the bookies are my father-in-laws friends. They tip their hats to me when I pass. When my father-in-law died (he was 82) they came round every night to pay their repects and sit and talk of old times, giving us great comfort, until the “nine night” all night wake that takes place in Jamaican culture, where everyone stays up all night, drinking white rum, singing and playing dominoes. recalling stories of their dead friend, they honour and respect his life.

    My neigbour brings me scarves and sandals from Pakistan when I look after his house when I am away. He is the old long bearded man that walks down Shenley rd, with the glasses and the funny clothes. People abuse him on the street, calling him a terrorist.

    Mehmet in Bolus has watched my children grow up. We used to take my daughter there in a push chair when she was a baby, to have our kebabs in the back-it is still our most favoured place for a romantic evening.

    See, I don’t find the area forbidding and I look at the mops with affection. As far as I know they have been there 20 years. I notice when they put on a new mophead. The look on the Chinese boys faces is only a reflection of your own fear. Try not to be afraid. Try to find out more about the people you live amongst.That’s all anyone has to do to make SE5 a better place.

    What I do find forbidding is the distrust and suspicion I hear developing in our community which makes my family’s life poorer.It also makes young people surly and agressive. They sense the fear. They feel like lepers. They behave badly accordingly. Camilla is right. They do need love. If you expect the worst of them all, that’s what you’ll get. Some of them are bad apples. Not all of them are. They are not vermin or scumbags. They are little frightened boys. I know. I’ve got one just like them at home. He wears hoodies (mostly because he’s scared of other boys seeing him and attacking him, but partly because of fashion), listens and creates rap/grime etc and makes awful noises with it in his bedroom and sucks his thumb. He’s 2 ins taller than his six foot father and has to lean down to cuddle me. The police think this is intimidating (his height I mean) so whnever he is stopped and searched (which happens on a regular basis as he is going about his daily business) they put him in handcuffs. This upsets him somewhat, so now he scowls a lot when he’s out because he’s afraid. I expect he looks a bit intimidating. I keep telling him to relax and smile more but it’s hard for him really. Ladies cross the street because they think he’s a mugger.I am surprised the boy has the strength to carry on going to work and college, but he does. Even wakes up singing sometimes!

    So if he can still sing and be happy, so can we. Next time you pass Ming Wah, I hope you see it a little differently.

    That people want to leave and think there is something better elsewhere seems strange to me. How rich our lives are! How much we have! Let’s hope we can keep it and change our perceptions before it’s too late.

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