Police ‘underestimated scale of disorder’ when travellers arrived in seaside town of Cromer

<em>Norfolk Police say they failed to properly deal with disorder in Cromer after travellers arrived (Rex/stock photo)</em>
Norfolk Police say they failed to properly deal with disorder in Cromer after travellers arrived (Rex/stock photo)

A UK police force failed to properly deal with disorder when a large group of travellers arrived in a seaside town, a report has concluded.

Norfolk Police launched a review into their response to events in Cromer over the weekend of 18-20 August, following reports of crimes including rape and thefts.

Residents said on social media that the town was on “lockdown” after pubs closed early or refused to open.

At the time, the force described the incidents as “low-level disorder”.

However, the review found that police “did not recognise the impact the travellers’ presence and behaviour was having on the community” and, as a result, they failed to deploy enough resources.

The report said: ”The force misread the significance of events and provided an ill-judged statement on social media referring to the disorder as ‘low level’.”

<em>Footage on YouTube appeared to show a police presence in Cromer after travellers turned up (YouTube)</em>
Footage on YouTube appeared to show a police presence in Cromer after travellers turned up (YouTube)

The review makes recommendations in four main areas: the sharing of intelligence, leadership decisions, social media messages, and how unauthorised encampments are dealt with.

Norfolk Police had been told by Suffolk Police that the group of travellers had left Lowestoft after causing some disruption there and were heading to Norfolk, the report said.

This information was “not recorded on official systems” in a way that allowed it to reach key people within Norfolk Police, and resulted in senior officers making initial decisions without knowing all of the facts.

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It meant police decided that the local council should take the lead on the unauthorised traveller encampment instead of using police powers to move the group, and events were treated “as part of normal business across a busy weekend”.

The report added: ”These decisions combined meant that the travellers were not moved on quickly enough and the Constabulary did not have the resources available to deal appropriately with the events that occurred in Cromer on that weekend, placing officers on the ground in an impossible position.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “As I have said before, we got this wrong and I feel terribly sorry that the people of Cromer feel let down by our response.

<em>Norfolk Police said they had “got it wrong” in Cromer (Norfolk Police)</em>
Norfolk Police said they had “got it wrong” in Cromer (Norfolk Police)

“Moving forward, it is important that as an organisation we take any learning opportunities, put measures in place and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“I have met with local councillors, business leaders and victims affected by the events of that August weekend, to explain the learning identified. We will continue to work with them to build and regain the communities’ confidence.”

Investigations into crimes reported over the weekend are continuing, including the alleged rape of a woman in Cadogan Road on 18 August.

Three men have been arrested in connection with the incident, with two bailed until November 23 and the third released under investigation.