Armed police watch travellers' camp

Apr 12 2005

By Joan Mulcaster

TRAVELLER-on-traveller crime has led to armed police staging repeated watches on a mobile homes site after a caravan was torched in an arson attack.

But as police marksmen joined other officers after threats of an armed attack on a site in Rectory Lane, Woodmansterne, on Saturday April 2, terrified occupants swept all their children into trailers.

And neighbours, fearful for their own safety, were demanding nationwide police crackdowns on firearms throughout the travelling community.

When the armed attack threat was not carried out, and the officers were dispersed, villagers were also asking questions about the heavy use of manpower.

A member of Woodmansterne Residents' Association said: "When police forces throughout the UK held a firearms amnesty followed by a crackdown on unlicensed guns, did this also apply to travellers? "Have they ever raided any caravan sites for firearms? If not, then why not?"

Another villager said: "A big chunk of manpower - nine vehicles plus officers - was up here tonight, which must have meant other areas were deprived."

Only last month on March 17 a Surrey Force helicopter was called to the site.
This hovered as seven men were arrested after dismantling a caravan. They were later released with no further action taken.

The same night another mobile home was burned to the ground and witnesses are still being sought for this crime.

It is understood there are no firearms at the Rectory Lane site, occupied by peaceful Romanies.

They claim they are being repeatedly targeted by a small minority of violent, and often armed, Irish travellers among those now flooding into the UK after Ireland's tightening of planning laws.

A Romany, who does not want to be named for fear of revenge, said: "Some of them want our land and are harassing us in the hope we will go. Now they are threatening us, and those threats have included threats to shoot.

"Romanies, mostly Smiths, have been law-abiding citizens here for centuries. "When Irish started to travel here at first we rubbed along with them OK. But the thousands here now have a few bad lads with shooters."

Inspector Bob Jenkin, Surrey Police Inspector for Reigate and Banstead, said: "There has been significant police activity at the site over the last few days and we are doing whatever is necessary to keep the peace and prevent disorder."

This is from the local area Guardian newsapapers in Surrey

Original source