Gang 'bans' rivals from town centre
Feb 9 2007
CROYDON'S biggest gang has banned its rivals from the town centre, it has emerged this week. Don't Say Nothing (DSN) has proclaimed Croydon its "turf" and the recent escalation in gang warfare locally is understood to be linked to this ban. Other gangs are said to have defied the warning and that is said to have caused town centre fights and even a recent stabbing at East Croydon station. North End has become a particular flash-point as DSN sees this as the heart of its turf.
News of the "ban" came at a Croydon Youth Court case last Friday where a 15-year-old boy appeared charged with affray over a town centre battle caught on CCTV. He was captured on film fighting with a broom from a streetsweeper's trolley as groups affiliated to DSN and Thornton Heath gang Straight Merking (killing) Niggas,also known as SMN,clashed. His opponent, who was knocked to the floor in the brief fight at 6.30pm on January 5, wielded a shovel also taken from the roadside. Olivia Kong,prosecuting, said that in a police interview the youth - who cannot be named for legal reasons - said there was an ongoing dispute between DSN and other gangs.
She told the court: "He said DSN proclaimed Croydon as their turf and other gangs should not enter Croydon. This has caused problems as a number of other gangs have challenged this belief."
A series of confrontations in and around North End and the Whitgift Shopping Centre have erupted with no obvious explanation. The Advertiser understands most are part of the ongoing war involving members of the DSN gang. DSN began in the South Croydon and Waddon area. The gang has fought rivals such as SMN and this has caused trouble in the town centre shopping parade at North End and in the Whitgift, which has since stepped up security.
One teenage girl who grew up with some of DSN's 20-strong hardcore members described how the rivalry has fuelled the gang problem. She said: "There are a lot of African kids in DSN and I got to know them because I had the same background. "Hundreds of people belong to it - there are so many now that some have never even met each other. The youngest is 12 and the oldest is 31. But there are even more when you count the fact that DSN has alliances with at least four other gangs, as does SMN. The networks stretch across South London."
On December 8 a good Samaritan had his ear partially severed in North End after trying to stop a teenager being beaten by youths in an apparent gang initiation ceremony. Our source - who does not want to be named - believes it was nothing more than a ritual to impress the "elders". She said: "To get into a gang you have to shank [stab] or rob someone, take a beating or prove your badness in some way. Once you're in you can rise to the rank of general and recruit other people. But if you mess up, like a robbery where the police get involved, you get de-recruited. It is SMN that has the most younger members because there are more schools and estates where they live."
In last week's court case the boy - who denied being a member of either gang and is of previous good character - was given a three-month referral order and ordered to pay £20 costs. A few days after that brawl, on January 19, DSN reportedly clashed with another gang outside Croydon College. The fight led to a stabbing at East Croydon station which left a 16-year-old in intensive care. Hours after it had happened, a post on the gang's website claimed it had been a battle with the Gipset gang from Gipsy Hill. But the most graphic insight into DSN's world can be seen in a video posted on the MySpace social networking website. It shows a youth from another gang - with blood oozing from the side of his mouth and a look of terror in his eyes - being forced to strip naked by DSN members. He is then slapped and told to identify himself, show his gold teeth and repeat the name "DSN" and the name of one of its allied gangs several times. Elsewhere on another Internet site a member of DSN poses with a gun.
Police do not comment on individual gangs but admit that collectively they represent an "emerging" problem in Croydon. The borough force will launch a dedicated unit next month - which is also backed by Croydon Council - to tackle the issue.
The locals don't seem too happy about all this, although a grateful populace returned a Labour councillor with an increased percentage at a recent by-election.
It wasn't always like that. Betjeman's poem comes from another age. That Croydon is vanished 'once for all'.
In a house like that
Your Uncle Dick was born;
Satchel on back he walked to Whitgift
Every weekday morn.
Boys together in Coulsdon woodlands,
Bramble-berried and steep,
He and his pals would look for spadgers,
The laurels are speckled in Marchmont Avenue
Just as they were before,
But the steps are dusty that still lead up to
Your Uncle Dick's front door.
Pear and apple in Croydon gardens
Bud and blossom and fall,
But your Uncle Dick has left his Croydon
Once for all.