Gifford Street siege…..


A bizarre incident in Gifford Street last week, related here by Cllr Paul Convery:

‘The police laid siege to Gifford Street on Thursday Jan 10th. The street was closed off by police after calls around lunchtime from neighbours troubled by the behaviour of a man in one of the flats at 116 Gifford Street. After shouting at the police from his balcony, the guy began to pose a more serious threat and the police brought in reinforcements to cover all contingencies. About 20 officers from the heavy mob arrived complete with battering ram and full riot gear. This seemed a bit excessive and I asked to be briefed by the incident Inspector about his risk assessment and proposed tactics. He eventually decided the threat was not so severe as to require a mass forced entry.’

‘The stand-off continued all afternoon. At one point there were eight police vehicles, two ambulance crew and station officer, Transco engineers, a fire crew and pump, social services and medical staff and at least twenty police officers.’

‘By around 5.30 the man was pursuaded to leave the flat quietly. The incident was suddenly over, the different agencies packed-up, drove off and the street returned to normal within minutes. The flat was secured, police took some evidence … and life went on.’

‘Witnessing the event made me wonder. On the one hand, the public agencies’ response to this incident was very reassuring – something serious and risky occurred and the emergency services did their stuff very professionally and it ended fine. But I also question whether the police responded so comprehensively to an incident like this because the "siege" situation is an understandable and rehearsed type of incident: a man threatens to do something nasty (say) with a weapon and the police have a playbook of scenarios they can work to.’

‘Around this neighbourhood, we have a regular succession of situations where unpleasant and sometimes threatening incidents happen. Yet the police response is often cursory. Perhaps it’s just because "guy-going-nutty-in-a-flat" is a fixed threat but “youths-roaming-the-neighbourhood-throwing-fireworks-into-homes” is too transitory for the police to react to.’

It’s worth pointing out that we don’t get this sort of thing every day and crime in the area overall is falling.  I agree with Paul’s sentiment about the nature of the police response vis a vis lower level disorder.   When my terrace was being stoned by a gang of 20 kids it took the police ( a couple of officers in a car) 20 minutes to arrive. 

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
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