The borough commander played down community concerns about anti social behaviour at a public meeting saying there were still problems but ‘things are getting better.’

He made the comments as statistics released by the Met for August showed a 20 per cent increase in violent crime and ASB in the Thornton Heath ward compared with the same period in 2018.

An image of Chief Supt Dave Stringer posted on social media showing him sat on one of the seats at the Clocktower smiling and reading a newspaper next to the hashtag #notacaninsight upset residents who have been complaining for months about all day and night drinking keeping them awake.

One said: “That may have been true then but your tweet makes it sounds like you have solved the problem which clearly isn’t the case.”

As soon as he moved the street drinkers were back and returned again at 10am the next morning for another drinking session.

Residents have also reported feeling intimidated by the group and one man told the Safer Neighbourhood Team that while on the way to work at the station he was accosted by a man yelling in his ear that Thornton Heath was a ‘dangerous place and so was he” and these cases aren’t isolated.

Last month street drinkers holed up all night at the Clocktower and were still drinking and shouting the next morning.

Two members of the group were involved in a fight which was posted on social media.

The disturbing footage has enabled the police to pursue a Criminal Behaviour Order against one of those involved and a charge against another.

Cllr Karen Jewitt told the meeting she was at a ‘loss’ at what could be done and said that they had been offered help, all had flats and there was no reason why they couldn’t meet at someone’s house rather than sitting outside Tesco and the Clocktower.

She described the fight as ‘horrendous’ adding: “People trying to take kids to school witnessed this fighting and squabbling. The  language was horrendous.”

Police have successfully issued a Criminal Behaviour Order against a prolific beggar and street drinker but it took over six  mostly months to achieve and now the street drinking group has grown even bigger.

The Chronicle understands that the group is made of people who have been housed in nearby accommodation including the Buller Hotel by local authorities  in  Surrey, Sutton, Wimbledon and even from as far as North London.

The borough commander and the  council’s cabinet member for safer Croydon and communities, Councillor Hamida Ali, hosted a meeting at the Salvation Army last Tuesday (Oct ) on knife crime and violence.

There have been three previous community meetings but this was the first ‘meeting which was joint led and included presentations from the Croydon’s early help, gangs and youth engagement team.

The borough commander said in response to question about ASB, that it was a long standing problem that would take ‘a long time to deal with’. He said jointly with the local authority they were looking at ways of tackling individuals and premises that were attracting and generating ASB.

He put down the 20 per cent increase in ASB to ‘better reporting’ and said that in the last month there had been a ‘very welcome reduction’ in ASB which he attributed to the CBO.

Cllr Ali also highlighted the partnership approach and said that there had been two enforcement days and four outreach days offering support to  street drinkers.

She also acknowledged that where a Public Space Protection notice exists it gives the police and council enforcement powers adding that notice warnings had been delivered, but that it was an ‘ongoing issue.’  She said the council were looking at practical options including removing street furniture.

At a previous meeting the police chief welcomed a suggestion by Donna Murray Turner, Chair of Safer Neighbourhoods Board, for there to be community patrols  with the police  but when asked whether these had taken place he said that groups of more than 10-15 people were ‘unmanageable’.

Prior to the meeting he did a two hour walkabout with police, council officers, councillors and decision makers and added: “We talked to local residents and local businesses and the feed back was pretty unanimously  that we have still got problems but things are getting better.”