Riot police on alert after council estate rampage

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The Independent Online
POLICE with riot shields were patrolling the cathedral city of Lincoln last night after a trivial dispute about shoplifting led to two nights of fighting.

Local councillors were astounded that a minor confrontation between shopkeepers and children had escalated into full- scale rioting. In the past four days, police officers have been attacked with petrol bombs and bricks, a shop looted and shopkeepers driven out of business.

It is the worst outbreak of violence the usually quiet city has seen since a New Year's Eve riot five and a half years ago.

Tension began to build at the beginning of last week when Bob and Dot Dunderdale, who run a mini-supermarket on the city's pre-war St Giles council estate, warned teenage shoplifters that they would be barred from the store and reported to the police.

Far from being deterred, local people accused the Dunderdales of 'grassing to the cops' and repeatedly went into the supermarket and threatened them. It appears that the couple were blamed for giving information to the police that led to arrests.

By Wednesday, the couple had had enough and decided to abandon the shop they had run for five years. They moved to a secret address away from the area and are now being protected by police.

On Thursday night a crowd of about 300 gathered outside the shop, broke in and looted stock. Police were heavily out-numbered and had to retreat.

The police came back in greater force on Friday evening. Sixty officers were brought in and a specialist support unit with riot shields was deployed. They watched as gangs of youths roamed the estate for several hours.

But there was no trouble until early yesterday, when a crowd of about 100, which, witnesses said, included nine and 10-year-old children, attacked the officers. Two petrol bombs were thrown and rioters hurled stones and bricks at the police. Officers took cover behind the shields before moving in to break up the crowd.

Four men and a woman were arrested. But a police spokesman said local people had helped most of the rioters to escape.

'Crowds of seemingly uninvolved onlookers hindered the identification of actual offenders. We are going to have to continue with this operation for the foreseeable future.'

Ric Metcalfe, a Lincoln city councillor who represents the estate, said: 'This small incident of animosity against a couple of shopkeepers has just fed on itself and got out of control. It's mainly been teenagers involved and some young children. But there are a few adults out there as well.

'St Giles isn't a bad estate. It's been transformed by a massive regeneration programme in recent years. But now the police and media are involved it's just going from bad to worse.'