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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Croydon 'safe havens' aimed at helping people in danger

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Croydon Advertiser

SHOPS are being asked to act as ‘safe havens’ for people in danger and in need of help. ReporterGareth Davies asks businesses taking part in the scheme whether it has made our streets safer whether it is just a gimmick

BUTCHER Robert Hartwell barely needed to be asked to turn his business into a safe haven for any young person in danger.

Hasan Arshad runs Bubblegum Children’s Wear, one of Croydon’s safe havens

He signed up his shop H Hartwell & Son after first hand experience of how important the scheme could be.

“Before all this happened my nephew got off at Thornton Heath train station and some boys tried to take whatever he had with him,” he explained.

“He did the only thing he could do and legged it down to where he knew he would be safe – my shop.

“Once upon a time that could have been one of my children.

I would have wanted to know that, wherever they were, there was somewhere they could turn.”


As a result Mr Hartwell had no hesitation when asked if his family’s 98-year-old business, in Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath, would become part of CitySafe, a campaign by an alliance of community groups called London Citizens.

The scheme wants shops to become “safe havens”, a public place where people can seek refuge in a difficult situation, and to turn dangerous areas into “safe zones”, with an action team and community champion.

Mr Hartwell said: “I was asked whether I would be prepared to take in a child who was in difficulty of course I said yes.

“If you are a decent person who doesn’t turn people away when they need help.”

Businesses that agree to become havens commit to reporting 100 per cent of crime, offer their shop as a sanctuary to youths in trouble and refuse to sell alcohol, knives or other dangerous items to underage or drunk citizens.

According to London Citizens more than 200 businesses have signed up to CitySafe since it was launched in 2008, including seven in Croydon.

St Mary’s, St Jude’s and St Andrew’s churches and Oasis Academy Shirley Park have been helping to persuade shops in London Road and Thornton Heath to take part.

Shops are given guidance about what to do when called upon.

They display a sticker in their window so people know they are a safe haven.

But six months after Mr Hartwell agreed to take part, no one has taken shelter in his shop. In fact, none of the businesses contacted by the Advertiser had helped anyone in danger or in need of shelter. “The fact that no one has needed it doesn’t mean to say it’s not a good idea,” he said.

“You shouldn’t have to ask shops to do this, but it’s best to have the systems in place.

“Even if it only takes one child out of a dangerous situation, it’s worthwhile.

“Whoever has signed up to it should feel proud.”

Bubblegum Children’s Wear, in Brigstock Road, is also part of the CitySafe scheme but, a year and a half after signing up, it has yet to be used as a shelter.


Manager Hasan Ashard said: “Maybe the kids don’t know what it’s all about or that we’re involved. Perhaps they are shy.

“The hope is that no one needs to take shelter here but, if they do, they need to know there is somewhere for them to go – where they can be safe and

know that nothing bad is

going to happen to them.

“I wanted to be able to help them and thought it would bring us closer to the community.”

CitySafe shops are told to reassure the people they help before contacting their parents or the police. But the scheme, which is backed by the Met, is also being used to show that shops are vigilant.

Cake decorator Sumi Arudchelvan, of Party Crafts, in London Road, said she was advised to put the sticker in her window to scare off criminals.

London Citizens plans to create a map of the capital’s safe havens.

CitySafe coordinator Peter Brierley said the scheme is as much about bringing businesses together as it about keeping people safe.

“All of these local retailers believe shop keepers are more than just a place to buy a product,” he explained.

“Together they are making a positive contribution to their community and reminding us of a time when neighbours used to look out for one another.”

The following traders are “safe havens”:

Unicorn Dry Cleaners, High Street, Thornton Heath

Wimpy, High Street, Thornton Heath

Julia Knows Beauty, Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath

Bubblegum Children’s Wear, Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath

H Hartwell & Son, Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath

Ship of Fools, London Road, West Croydon

Party Crafts, London Road, West Croydon

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