Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fire.


There was drama and not a little confusion early on Tuesday morning. A fire had started in the yard belonging to European Metal Recycling (EMR) in Manor Road, Erith at around 3am. Fire engines from Erith, Plumstead, Sidcup, Barking and Bexley fire stations attended the incident, crewed by around 35 fire fighters. It took until shortly before 8am before the blaze was fully extinguished. I understand from my conversation with the incident control officer that the biggest problem the fire brigade had in fighting the fire was a lack of water, and very low water pressure from the hydrants in the road. I know this has been a problem in Manor Road for many years. There is a main hydrant located on the corner of Manor Road and Frobisher Road, and even though this was put into use, the water available to put out the fire was hardly sufficient. I also was led to believe that the fire was not suspicious. The officer was of the opinion that it probably started from an old car or truck battery short circuiting.  He also told me that initially the fire brigade had been concerned that the fire might spread to gas cylinders, causing an explosion - as had happened a few years ago in a similar fire on the industrial estate on the Slade Green marshes along Wallhouse Road. He also told me that EMR have in the past had very poor gas cylinder storage practices, which had concerned him; he then said that since a recent site safety survey, the company had improved their gas cylinder storage arrangements greatly, and that this undoubtedly contributed to the relatively minor nature of the blaze. The fire caused a diversion to the 99 bus service away from Manor Road for several hours after the incident was successfully resolved. The photos above (click on any one to see a larger view) were taken shortly after the fire was extinguished, and the fire fighters were tidying up their equipment and getting ready to leave the scene.  What is also surprising is that the entire operation was conducted so smoothly and quietly that most residents in and around Manor Road were completely unaware of the fire and the subsequent operation to extinguish it. It was only passers by that became aware of the large scale of the endeavours to put the fire out. 

Following my recent article on the pioneering and rather prophetic cartoonist William K Haselden, and his foresight in seeing the downsides of mobile phones, some 65 years before they were actually invented, I have had some further thoughts on the subject; a recent article was published which shows that if you have a smart phone, even if you have GPS and WiFi turned off, your location can still be accurately tracked. This may not concern some smart phone users, but others who have privacy concerns may well be worried. A team of security researchers from Princeton University tracked smart phones using a technique dubbed PinMe, which combined information from the phone and non-phone sources to work out where a user is. In their paper, published last week, they explain that PinMe works with “non-sensory/sensory data stored on the smartphone” (the first category includes timezone and network status; the second includes air pressure and heading), and when that's combined with “publicly available auxiliary information” like elevation maps, it's able to “estimate the user's location when all location services, eg GPS, are turned off.” The combination of data sources, the paper says, yielded user tracking “comparable to GPS” on their iPhone 6, iPhone 6S and Galaxy S4 i9500 test devices. Another method of illegally gaining location details of a smart phone is to compromise it with a malicious app. Fitness apps "can, without arousing suspicion, collect and upload a significant amount of valuable non-sensory/sensory data, which can be post-processed to infer critical information about the user," the researchers wrote. In the PinMe attack, the researchers went down the malicious app path, and as noted above, some of the information a smartphone can get does not need the user's permission. Timezone, device IP address and network status do not need permission; nor do the accelerometer, magnetometer (which measures the angle between the phone's heading and north), or barometer. The public data PinMe uses includes OpenStreetMap, Google Maps' elevation data fetched through its Application Programming Interface (API), OpenFlights (which maps 9,541 airports); they built a train heading database from Google Maps, and accessed public transport timetables (where possible, from their APIs). As an example of how all this translates to getting a user's location: the I.P address can be geolocated to provide a guess at a city; barometer data tells you if the user arrived on an aeroplane; if the user's heading doesn't change much, they're on a train; travel by car can be correlated to street map data; and so on. Each individual piece of information does not amount to much, but when multiple pieces are correlated, the phone and therefore the user can be quite accurately pinpointed, with no interaction or knowledge of the user.  The security paper suggests phone manufacturers give users the ability to shut down sensors, or put sensors into a privacy mode that limits their sampling rate and accuracy. 


The photo above shows Erith Riverside Gardens and the River Thames at low tide. Click on the photo for a larger view. The gardens and the River Thames shoreline were the location of a bit of drama recently; last Sunday evening Bexley Police intercepted a car containing two individuals on Erith High Street (a bit of a misnomer, as the road runs parallel to the Riverside Gardens, not in the town centre itself). The car and occupants had been acting suspiciously, and when the Police tried to pull it over, the car made off. After a short chase, the vehicle crashed into a lamp post, and the two occupants ran off, with the Police in hot pursuit. One of the criminals managed to escape, but the other - who by the sound of things was not very bright - ran across the Riverside Gardens and then over the railings and into the River Thames. It was low tide at the time, and the criminal got stuck in the very deep mud that exists all along the Erith river front. The Fire Brigade had to be called with an inflatable walkway to rescue the drug dealer, before he either disappeared into the mud for good, or the next tide came in to drown him. It strikes me that this would have been the ideal time for the Police to have questioned the crook - the implication being that if he did not give a full confession and details of his escaped accomplice, he would be left to his own devices and would suffer a watery, and entirely appropriate doom. A spokesperson for Bexley Police said in an interview with the News Shopper:- "The two occupants made off on foot. Officers conducted an area search and one of the suspects was located nearby, stuck in mud in a river bed. He was freed by the London Fire Brigade, and then arrested on suspicion of possession of drugs with intent to supply. A quantity of drugs was recovered from the vehicle." One less crook on the streets for now. 

Erith Riverside was the location of another incident this week; as you will no doubt be aware, a German WWII era 500 Kg bomb was discovered last Sunday, close to London City Airport, as was widely reported in the press, this caused the airport to be closed for two days, and a large number of residents in the surrounding area to be evacuated. Once the large bomb was defused and made safe, it was transported down river to the sea about a mile off Shoeburyness in Essex, where it was then detonated safely by the Royal Navy. What escaped most commentators was that the bomb was floated downriver from the airport, past Woolwich, Plumstead, Thamesmead, Lower Belvedere and Erith before heading towards the coast and under the Dartford QEII Bridge. Whist one might consider that the bomb was defused and therefore safe, this may well not have been entirely the case. In World War Two, the Germans used an explosive mixture of forty percent Amatol and sixty percent TNT in their bombs. Over time, this explosive mixture deteriorates, and can become extremely unstable. I am sure that the Royal Navy Explosive Ordnance Demolition team knew exactly what they were doing, but the thought remains - were any plans to evacuate residents living on or close to the banks of the River Thames ever considered? Please feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.

Recently I have refrained from commenting on the forthcoming court case regarding fellow local Blogger, Malcolm Knight of "Bexley is Bonkers". Bexley Councillor Maxine Fothergill has taken legal action against Malcolm, for allegedly harassing her. From my understanding of events surrounding this allegation, it would appear that Councillor Fothergill is skating on very thin ice indeed. Malcolm has taken some expert legal advice, and it seems to me that the boot is now very much on the other foot. The outcome of the court case may well have consequences and implications for local Bloggers all around the country, and I think the national press may well find the whole Fothergill vs Knight case worthy of some attention. In case you are wondering why I am not mentioning any of the specifics of the court case, it is because I don't want to be accused of trying to influence it. All will become abundantly clear in due course. I strongly suspect that Councillor Fothergill is going to end up in some very serious trouble indeed if she goes ahead with the case. You can read more about the case in Malcom's own words by clicking here

Now for the weekly safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. First from Barnehurst ward:- "A fantastic week crime wise for Barnehurst ward with no burglaries or other crimes of note reported. PC Laker has been out and about on the push bike over the half term engaging with the younger residents of the ward giving lessons on safe cycling. Please if you are a parent make sure that you child is wearing a cycle helmet. A big thank you to the residents who turned up in the cold and wet on Tuesday at Hall place car park for our community contact session. The next session will be at a warmer venue - Barnehurst Golf Course on Tuesday 20th February at 11am. Join a member of the team for a chat about local issues and crime prevention advice. As always follow us on twitter @MPSBarnehurst and Facebook at Barnehurst police". Belvedere ward:- "The team assisted Thamesmead East with a drugs warrant on 13/02/2018 where a cannabis factory was uncovered. Approximately 90 plants were seized and the investigation is on-going. Another load of drugs taken off of our streets. We held our ward panel meeting on 08/02/2018 at the Belvedere Community Centre. We had a good turnout for the meeting. Our new three promises are: 1) Robbery, 2) Traffic/Motor Vehicle Crime and 3) Drugs. We will be working on these issues over the next three months. We have received complaints from residents in Nethwode Court about noise issues. If anyone has any information please do get in contact. Also we have been told about suspicious activity around the Halt Robin Road area. Again if anyone has seen anything odd please contact the local team belvedere.snt@met.police.uk or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Our upcoming surgeries are: 20/02/2018 – Belvedere Library, 10:30 – 11:30. 28/02/2018 – Asda Café, 12:00 – 12:30". Brampton ward:- "We have been advised that some residents in Berkeley Avenue have received a yellow promotional pack of tissues with useful local business contact numbers printed on. There is also a 'free cash and gift incentive'. Branded 'Call DA7', they were posted in the early hours and many left half-in half-out of letterboxes. Concerns were that this could be a means of identifying unoccupied houses for potential burglary or some sort of scam. Having looked into this further, we understand that the company is legitimately trialing a new business idea locally. However, if you receive one of these or have done and it has raised your suspicion for any reason, please let us know. There were two incidents of criminal damage to motor vehicles in Normanhurst Avenue overnight of the 11th Feb where vehicles had there rear windscreen smashed with bricks. A group of youths had been spotted in the area around the time of the incident but no positive link can be made. On the same day there were two attempted burglaries in Clare Way where tool marks were found on the UPVC doors of neighbours. Entry was not gained and nothing taken. Remember to always lock your PVC doors as well as just engaging the handle. There was an incident of tyre slashing earlier in the week when a commercial vehicle had all four tyres punctured by a male who was caught on CCTV, but showed no facial images. Finally a burglary occurred in Hyde Road on the 13th Feb. Entry was gained by smashing a hole on the glass rear door, also the garage door was interfered with and the CCTV hard drive was taken. It appears nothing was taken from the house. Remember to keep up with your local police team by following them on Twitter and Facebook". Christ Church ward:- "We are pleased to mention that we have had no reports of burglaries or even attempted burglaries this week. There have been three separate reports of criminal damage to motor vehicles on the ward. Below is brief description of what was reported: Between 09/02/2018 & 10/02/2018 tyres were slashed on a vehicle in Freta Road. On the 10/02/2018 – Report of a vehicle damaged in Lion Road. On the 06/02/2018 a vehicle was damaged near the Marriot Hotel. A report was received of a theft from motor vehicle. Incident had taken place on the 09/02/0018 in the Cinema car park, items were taken from inside the vehicle. The team has been very busy across the ward, working on ward priorities. On Friday the team spoke to 12 youths in the bowling alley car park area. Patrols have also been conducted at the Premier Inn car park, leading to a cannabis warning being issued. On Saturday, 5 youths were stopped on push bikes near the Bowling Alley and a further three at the Premier Inn car park. A further 5 stops were conducted again on Sunday at the Bowling alley, with one leading to an arrest for cannabis. 4 parental letters have been sent out to youths in relation to repeat ASB offending and we look to work with the parents to rectify their behaviour. On the 11/02/2018, we received a report of a robbery that had taken place in the Broadway/Royal Oak Road area. Mobile phones were taken as well as cash and oyster cards. We would like to remind you that on Thursday 15th February 2018 is our bike marking event that will be taking place outside the Bowling Alley from 11AM until 4PM, please feel free to attend. As part of our drive to try to encourage more Neighbourhood Watches on our ward, the team have delivered Neighbourhood Watch recruitment cards to streets that do not have any watches. Please encourage people to join up and inform them of the benefits. If you have any further ideas of how we can promote Neighbourhood Watch, then please feel free to make contact. If you wish to contact the team, please feel free to contact us via email, twitter or over the phone. For crime prevention advice, please look at the Met Police website which does have information that you may find useful. In an emergency please dial 999 and 101 for non-urgent reporting". Colyers ward:- "There were two reported burglaries on Colyers Ward between 07/02/18 and 12/02/18. There were no reported motor vehicle crimes during the same period. The burglaries were in South Road Erith Coniston Road Bexleyheath. On 08/02/18 a victim in South Road Erith called police and stated that she had been burgled. The victim was missing a black handbag which had a purse and two bankcards in it. She believes a neighbour may have taken the items. She initially stated that her purse, keys, phone, money and bank cards were in the handbag. She does not know when the bag was taken. On the 7th February 2018 the victim in Coniston Road Bexleyheath locked the side gate before going to bed. It is next to the house and leads to the garden, where there is a garage used for storage. On the morning of the 8th the victim found that the side gate was wide open. The victim assumed the strong winds overnight had blown it open. The garage door was still shut and nothing looked disturbed. However later the victim’s husband went to the garage to collect some tools and found two Makita drills, a socket set and a nail gun all missing". Crayford ward:- "In the early hours of Friday 9th February (04.00-04.12 two white males caused damage to the rear doors of Maplins and gained entry to the premises. They stole CCTV equipment. The incident was captured on CCTV for further investigation; A locked and secured black Renault Clio was stolen from outside a unit on Acorn Industrial Estate, Crayford Road on Tuesday 6th February between 14.06 – 14.47. Two white Males smashed a car window, gained entry to the vehicle and drove it away. One of the suspects was seen to have a white Citroen. Again, this has been captured on CCTV and is suitable for further investigation; Between Wednesday 7th February and Thursday 8th February a Blue Vauxhall Astra was stolen from Perry Street. It had been parked there as it had a gearbox issue so there is a possibility that it has been left locally by the suspect; On Friday 9th we held a Coffee with Cops session at the Café area in Sainsburys. We will be doing this again in the future, please don’t hesitate in coming to say hello to us; On 11th February an incident occurred at Tower Retail Park whereby the suspect confused the victim (till cashier) by paying for an item with a £20 note, getting change and then confusing the cashier with other notes and change, whereby the till ended up being significantly short when cashed up; On 1st February between 16.30-19.30 and 11th February between 17.00-19.30 a new vehicle that was parked on a driveway in Woolbrook Road had the paintwork deliberately scored causing damage. On Thursday 25th January Crayford and Barnehurst SNT assisted the RSPCA carrying out a warrant under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. What we discovered was truly heart-breaking and distressing, Dogs were found wet, cold, matted and covered in faeces. In total we seized 34 Dogs, 9 puppies and a large number of cats. All were examined by a vet on the day and are now in the care of the RSPCA. The investigation is ongoing and we will keep you updated with any results. If you have any concerns regarding animal welfare please contact either the local policing team or the RSPCA direct. On the 28th January, police officers were called to Green Place after reports of several males in the street involved in an altercation. It transpires that a male had driven his car into the dead end and then had it stolen by several males who had followed him there in two other vehicles". Erith ward:- "PC Gill arranged for a drugs sniffer dog on the ward last week, areas covered, Compton place, Tower Road and St Fidels Road, Photos are on Twitter @MPSErith Street briefing on Gordon Road and 2 new NHW signed up. Night patrols around Rutland Gate in plan clothing was carried out. Weapon search in Compton Place. Every hotspot area on the ward covered by the CCTV van This week due to it being half term will have extra patrols in Erith High street and surrounding areas. Weekly Crime update: We did have 1 residential burglary on 10/2/18 in Gordon Road. Entry was by the front door with 2 laptops stolen. Shoplifting to the value of £200 on 10/02/2018 Wickes Building Supplies Ltd, FRASER ROAD, Criminal damage to a vehicle on 11/02/2018 in Maximfeldt Road, Theft of a motor vehicle on 13/02/2018 in Cricketers Close". Lesnes Abbey ward:- "During the morning of Tuesday 13th Feb 2018, officers from Thamesmead East Safer Neighbourhood team, who were assisted by officers from the Lesnes Abbey and Belvedere team’s, executed a Section 23 misuse of drugs act warrant at Kingfisher Close, Thamesmead, SE28. In total 38 cannabis plants were taken from the address, there was no one at the property when Police conducted their enquiries. The investigation continues. A Dogs Trust event organised by Peabody Housing Association was held at “ THE LINK “ community hub.the Cats protection were also in attendance. Finally, a distressed female stopped officers, stating that her dog “ Rolo “ was missing. Details taken and were put on the Thamesmead’s twitter account. The owner contacted police stating “Rolo” had been found. Date for your diary - ALL ARE WELCOME: Tuesday 20/02/18 - A Community Contact Session will be held at the Bostall Library Community Group, King Harolds Way between the hours of 15:00 pm until 16:00 pm. An opportunity for members of the community who prefer face- to – face contact, to speak with a Dedicated Ward Officer". North End ward:- "No burglaries in the last week and only one theft from motor vehicle. This happened between the 10th and 12th of February in Slade Green Road and the car had a wing mirror taken from the driver side. No other crimes of note. 2 cannabis seizures in the last week, one at the rear of Grange House and one in Appold Street towards the river in Erith. Both resulted in a cannabis warning being issued. Northend ward PC Mark Brookes-Smith came across the victim of a GBH on Monday lunchtime in The Nursery just outside Erith Food and Wine shop. The male had a nasty injury to his hand and was taken by ambulance to hospital but not before all the suspect details were given and circulated and he was arrested within an hour of the incident. The whole team helped with the crime scene, research and paperwork in relation to the incident and the suspect has been remanded in custody". Northumberland Heath ward:- "The team have been busy this week and have had some excellent results. On Wednesday 7th February PC Dan Young gave chase to a male who was in a group causing anti-social behaviour in the Subway food store in Bexley Road. On seeing PC Young, the male made off across Bexley Road and was apprehended by PC Young in Charlieville Road. The male was arrested for possession of class B drugs with intent to supply. We have had reports of Motorbikes being ridden recklessly in the Sussex Road Recreation Ground this week causing distress to dog walkers and members of the public using the park. Following PC Smith’s arrest in Becton place last week, whereby a sixteen year old male was found to be in possession of a knife and several bags of cannabis he received an eight month custodial sentence at court with effect from the 9th February. Two Community Protection Notice’s (CPN) have been issued to two males, 16 and 17 years old. This is part of a long term partnership work with Bexley Council to stop ASB on the ward. The team have been gathering evidence against them for several months and hopefully the conditions placed on the two will stop them being able to commit further offences of ASB on the ward. On Friday evening 9th February the team stopped a group of males in Streamway, six males and their mopeds were searched in the Sussex Road Recreation Ground. A sixteen year old male was reported for possession of cannabis in the park. A burglary took place in Nurstead Road on Saturday February 10th. The occupants left the property at 5.30pm secure with a landing light on and returned at 9.30pm to find the rear kitchen smashed and the house ransacked. It is unclear at this stage exactly what has been stolen from the property. There was another incident in Nurstead Road on that same evening when it was believed another attempted burglary took place, which was resulted in the wall at the property being damaged. Thankfully entry was not gained. One report of criminal damage to a motor vehicle this week in Streamway. This took place on the evening of Thursday February 8th where the passenger window was smashed. There was a further robbery of a store in Brook street again this week. This store has been targeted twice in a short space of time. This incident took place on Tuesday February 6th at 8.30pm where a male entered the store and demanded money from the till. The shopkeeper gave the suspect £50 and the suspect fled the shop. Posters of the suspect have been circulated in shops in Northumberland Heath and reassurance visits have been made to all local shops to alert the shopkeepers and staff regarding these incidents". Thamesmead East ward:- "No burglaries reported this week, however Parkway Primary School, which is in the process of being redeveloped had building equipment stolen from the school playground. The metal containers storing the builder’s tools were broken into. Excellent proactive work - During the morning of Tuesday 13th Feb 2018, officers from Thamesmead East Safer Neighbourhood team, who were assisted by officers from the Lesnes Abbey and Belvedere teams, executed a Section 23 misuse of drugs act warrant at Kingfisher Close, Thamesmead, SE28. In total 38 cannabis plants were taken from the address, there was no one at the property when Police conducted their enquiries. The investigation continues. PC Pruden has interviewed a male in relation to riding a motorbike in an anti-social manner. Enquiries ongoing. PC Nana and PC Moore interviewed a male after seeing him riding a stolen motorbike. Also asked to explain himself regarding driving while disqualified and drug offences. The male will be charged and sent to court. The team attended The Link, Bazalgette Way, as part of the Dogs trust community event on Wednesday. Great to see so many owners and their dogs turn up and given plenty of good advice including free micro chipping. Nice story to end with, On Wednesday we were informed by an upset owner that her dog Rolo, (check out our twitter page for picture) was missing. We sent out information via social media, and I’m pleased to say Rolo reunited a couple of hours later".


Thamesmead pub The Barge Pole is finally being demolished - whilst I am a great supporter of pubs in general, The Barge Pole was an utter dump. The pub had its licence revoked by Bexley Council in 2016 following a New Year's Eve stabbing. I had the misfortune to be taken there once, many years ago, and I can only say that it reminded me in many ways of the Cantina in Mos Eisley spaceport in the original Star Wars film, only somewhat less welcoming. It is the second worst pub I have ever been in - and not a patch on the worst - The Phoenix in Dartford, which I wrote about here. Some time thereafter The Phoenix was raided by the Police and drugs, firearms and extreme right wing propaganda material were found. The Phoenix has now thankfully been demolished. The Barge Pole only really had one claim to fame; back in 2008 it was the prime location for the filming of a music video for the Indie Rock band The Kaiser Chiefs and their song "Never Miss A Beat". You can see the video below, which also features the now demolished Tavy Bridge area of Thamesmead. Please feel free to leave a comment below, or Email me at hugh.neal@gmail.com.