Chris Brooke, Daily Mail (London), June 13, 2014
Angry villagers yesterday said riots could break out if police do not deal with hundreds of Roma immigrants who they claim have ruined their community.
Residents of Hexthorpe, South Yorkshire, said people would take the law into their own hands unless the authorities step in to combat anti-social behaviour.
At a public meeting yesterday, emotions ran high as 120 locals confronted police and council officials.
Hexthorpe has a population of 3,300 and 500 Roma residents, most of whom are said to have arrived since January when entry rules to the UK were relaxed.
Villagers claim Roma groups are fly-tipping and leaving litter in the streets. They say they make so much noise at night that elderly residents have to sleep with ear plugs, while others are scared to go outside.
The meeting also heard allegations of assault.
Paul Adams, 44, who works in advertising, said: ‘They don’t care about the village or our community. All they are here for is the benefits.
‘They are here to play the system. They are loud, aggressive and intimidating. They gather in groups in the park and on the streets. They’ve attacked people, threatened people. People are intimidated just leaving the house.
‘They throw rubbish everywhere, literally out of their windows into their garden, in the knowledge someone from the council will have to clear it up. It is degrading for the street cleaners to have to be treated that way. What these people need is educating in how to be part of the community.’
He said the problems had hit local house prices too warning: ‘It will come to a point where blood will be spilt if things don’t improve.’
Grandmother Elizabeth Boardman, a widow and former lollipop lady, said she had lived in the village for 30 years and was shocked by the sudden change.
She said: ‘Now I wouldn’t walk down the road on my own because there are groups of them everywhere. I’m scared to pass them, they make me feel intimidated and shaken.
‘I try to ignore them but you get scared they are going to hit out at you.
‘If they carry on like this people will take the law into their own hands and there will be riots in the streets and I will be blaming the police for not doing anything sooner.’
Her daughter, mother-of-four, Michele Boardman, 44, who is a full time carer to a disabled son said: ‘A Roma man threatened to kill my daughters and was holding a knife as they walked home one night.
‘The police haven’t taken statements yet and the incident happened in April. They don’t care.
‘We just want to be able to provide a happy and safe environment to pass onto our children and the future generations. The kids can’t understand why they can’t go and play in the park any more. It’s just not safe for them.
‘The police need to be firmer with them and act now or there will be riots here like there were eight years ago when Iraqi, Kosovans and English clashed. These people need to learn to respect the area they live in and the people they are living with.’
One angry resident told the police officers at the meeting: ‘We feel as though you are scared of them and it’s to hell with the British. We’ve lost faith in you. This is our village, it’s time you got off your backsides and start doing something.’
Another resident said she had been warned to take down England flags she had put up outside her house for the World Cup bid, for fear of reprisals from the Roma community.
Police are learning to speak the Roma language as part of an effort to tackle community unrest in an inner city suburb.
A specialist community police team has been drafted in to prevent clashes between hundreds of Roma Slovak migrants and local residents upset at their ‘anti-social behaviour’ in the Page Hall area of Sheffield.
A package of measures has been introduced in a bid to calm tension and the police team is being taught their language to engage with the migrants directly rather than work through interpreters.
They are patrolling the streets seven days a week and have a permanent base in the area. The South Yorkshire Police team has been tasked with helping agencies resolve issues and problems.
Inspector Chris Lewis, who is in charge of the team, said: ‘Everything is about raising standards–improving housing, cleaning up the streets, creating more open space, providing more recreational opportunities–helping people to take pride in the area.’
Last year local Labour MP David Blunkett warned that tensions between residents and Roma migrants could escalate into violence if the problem wasn’t tackled effectively.