Businesses warned to prepare for ‘gangs of youths’ in shopping centre raid

Broadway Shopping Centre in Bexleyheath (Alamy/PA)
Broadway Shopping Centre in Bexleyheath (Alamy/PA)

Businesses have been warned to prepare for “gangs of youths” who may carry out an alleged TikTok-inspired raid at a shopping centre.

Broadway Shopping Centre in Bexleyheath, south-east London, has increased the number of security guards on Saturday amid speculation that social media post will encourage people to storm JD Sports to steal items.

It comes after footage showed police wielding batons in a clash with dozens of young people in Oxford Street on Wednesday in an incident thought to have been similarly motivated.

Nine people were arrested and 34 issued dispersal orders, banning them from the central London shopping area for 48 hours.

Oxford Street disorder
Police officers detain a man outside McDonald’s on Oxford Street (Jonathan Brady/PA)

West End stores were forced to close their shutters and lock customers inside during Wednesday’s looting raid, which was reportedly inspired by a social media craze encouraging people to take part in an “Oxford Street JD robbery”.

A letter sent to businesses by Broadway Shopping Centre on Friday 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, August 12.

“Whilst this may come to nothing, we have chosen to take the treat seriously in order that we cover every eventuality.

“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.”

Extra police officers will also be in the area, with shopkeepers advised to close if trouble begins.

Shopping centre manager Rai Holdstock told the PA news agency: “It’s the unknown, 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.

“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.”

A Section 35 dispersal order is in place until 4pm on Sunday, giving officers the power to stop people entering the area.

A Met spokesperson said: “There will be an increased policing presence in Bexleyheath town centre this weekend following speculation on social media that people plan to cause anti-social behaviour.

“Anyone who does take part in criminal activity will be dealt with.”