'Violence hotspot' named for South London borough as seven fights a night on high street as locals 'held at knifepoint'

Celia Spencer, 70, Broadway, Bexleyheath, Bexley, London, UK
-Credit: (Image: Joe Coughlan)

A high street in Bexley has been branded as the 'violence hotspot' of the borough, with locals claiming people have been 'held at knifepoint'. Broadway high street sits in Bexleyheath and connects the town centre with areas such as Welling and Falconwood.

The road has become known for its night time economy, with Met Police officers stating at a licensing meeting for Bexley Council on May 15 that they would struggle to staff the Broadway area if nightclubs on the street were allowed to stay open later. He said other wards in Bexley borough would be impacted as police assigned to specific areas would need to be temporarily reassigned to the high street to address late night crimes there.

Police Sergeant Steven Watson said at the meeting: "Crime analysis has shown that the [Broadway] area is the violence hotspot for Bexley borough, and those offences correspond with the peak hours of the late night licensed premises of that area."

Shane Connor, 40, lives just off Broadway. He said he can often hear teenagers running down his road late at night after coming off the high street.

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Shane Connor, 40, Broadway, Bexleyheath, Bexley, London, UK
Shane Connor, 40, said his neighbour was held at knifepoint when having his bike stolen -Credit:Joe Coughlan

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): "It’s always a bit rowdy. Sometimes even at 2am I have to go and tell them to be quiet because I’ve got a baby sleeping."

Mr Connor said he feels the nightclubs on the high street are open too late, as the area is largely residential. He added that while he grew up in Bexleyheath and never feels threatened on the road, crime is not unusual.

The local said: "My neighbour, he got his bike stolen from the front of his house by knifepoint. They were trying to steal his bike, it was chained up then he came out to stop them. They pulled it out and stole it anyway."

Crime data from the Met Police stated that there were 17 violent or sexual offences committed in the Broadway area of the Bexleyheath ward in December 2023. Police Sergeant David Catlow said at the meeting on May 15 that police regularly stop up to seven fights a night on Broadway high street.

Celia Spencer, 70, said she often comes to Broadway to shop and had noticed the high street felt less safe in the past five years. She claimed that she was 'frightened' by the amount of crime in the area and felt a greater police presence may be necessary.

Ms Spencer told the LDRS: "I'm quite shocked because I suppose as you get older you keep yourself to yourself. I’ve got grandchildren. My grandson is 20 and he would not come up here."

Stephen Jones, 71, lives in Sidcup and regularly comes to Broadway to use the leisure centre. He said he feels the violence on the road is largely attributed to drunks late at night, and police are often seen on social media making necessary arrests.

Mr Jones told the LDRS: "You see that they’re catching people, so I don't see it as a hotspot. Mind you, I can walk round Sydenham and Woolwich and not feel threatened."

He added: "I used to work in the security industry, so I'm more aware of things than other people. But I'm never frightened coming here."

Broadway high street, Bexleyheath, Bexley, London, UK
The Broadway high street sits in Bexleyheath in Bexley borough -Credit:Joe Coughlan

A Bexleyheath Police Station spokesperson told the LDRS that the Met Police worked alongside Bexley Council and Bexleyheath’s Business Improvement District (BID) to install additional high visibility police patrols to Broadway on weekend evenings. They added that officers also made representations at licensing hearings to address concerns on crime and anti-social behaviour (ASB) to ensure the right balance was met between local businesses carrying out their trade and the interests of the community.

The spokesperson said: "In comparative terms Bexley is one of the safest boroughs in London. However each borough has hotspots for crime and anti-social behaviour and the Broadway in Bexleyheath is recognised as a hotspot in Bexley. We recognise the impact that any crime and ASB has upon individuals and local communities, and want to make sure residents, visitors and those who work in Bexleyheath feel safe."

They added: "We recognise there is still work to do and so the police are increasing the number of officers assigned to the town centre team, and carrying out a number of proactive operations to help reduce crime. This includes live facial recognition operations to detect offenders who are wanted by the police or present a risk of serious harm."

A Bexley Council spokesperson confirmed that the authority was working alongside the Met Police and borough’s BID to address crime in the area and that additional officers had been deployed on weekends. They said that Bexley had remained as one of London’s top five safest boroughs for over a decade and the authority wanted every resident, visitor and worker in it to feel safe, but acknowledged that town centres experienced higher levels of ASBr than other areas.

The spokesperson said: "The council is one of the authorities that makes up the Bexley Community Safety Partnership (BCSP). Other authorities include the MPS, Probation, London Fire Brigade and Health services, all working together to reduce crime in the borough."

They added: "The BCSP sets its priorities based on crime analysis within the annual Joint Strategic Assessment, as well as the findings from its annual Bexley Community Safety Survey where residents tell us what concerns they have. The BCSP priorities for 2024/25 have been informed by the most recent survey and are confirmed as: Violent Crime, Domestic Abuse, ASB and Community Reassurance."

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