A police force has sparked fury after telling residents to have empathy with a group of 200 travellers they are trying to evict from their leafy village.
Locals living in well-heeled Thames Ditton – where homes are valued at £1million – say that they are at their wits’ end after a mob of 200 travellers decamped to their recreation ground from nearby Cobham.
Council bosses in Cobham obtained an eviction order from court and residents in Thames Ditton are now pursuing the same action.
But Surrey Police has been blasted after local force Elmbridge Police suggested residents have sympathy for the travellers on social media, writing ‘imagine how upsetting it would be, being uprooted every few days’.
Other Twitter users immediately pointed out that moving around to different locations was part of the traveller lifestyle.
It comes as travellers camps have also been set up in Ham, west London, and Ringmer, East Sussex.
Residents in a leafy Surrey village are furious after police suggested they have empathy with a group of travellers (pictured) who have set up an illegal camp after being evicted from another village just six miles away
Locals in Thames Ditton have complained of anti social behaviour in the area and are demanding the 200 travellers be evicted again. Pictured is a man driving children in a car in the camp at Long Ditton recreation ground
Police caused fury after suggesting locals have sympathy for the travellers, writing on social media ‘consider how upsetting it would be, being uprooted every few days’
Residents reacted with fury to the tweet and claimed travellers chose their lifestyle and did not have to commit acts of anti social behaviour
The travellers drove just six miles from Cobham to Thames Ditton after being evicted from the former
It comes as travellers camps are being set up across the south, with caravans parked up on the cricket green in Ringmer, East Sussex, pictured
Travellers have also set up a camp in Ham, west London, pictured, just weeks after a group previously based themselves there
The tweets from @ElmbridgeBeat said: ‘This is not to say that we won’t deal with criminality associated with encampments, of course we will.
‘But we must ensure that we balance immediate action and due diligence in terms of a full scale eviction if the proportionality is there. Hope this helps!
‘If we evidence a criminal damage then we would act. But can’t usually. You say upsetting to endure, consider for a second, how upsetting it would be, being uprooted every few days. That’s why we always act in the best interests of all parties with proportionality and legality.’
They also stated that Elmbridge Borough Council were taking the lead over how to deal with the situation.
A spokesman for the council said: ‘In most instances, the issues arising from the encampment for the community are minimal Surrey Police have been made aware of the encampment and will be monitoring regularly.
‘Following a report of an unauthorised encampment at Lower Green Recreation Ground, the Council’s Gypsy, Roma Traveller Liaison Officer will shortly be carrying out an assessment required under the legal protocol for dealing with unauthorised encampments.’
Angry Twitter user Sam Moore replied to the police saying: ‘I’m shocked by this statement @ElmbridgeBeat. If I was to ride a quad on our local rec, deficate[sic] in the kids sandpit, break a barrier and other communal equipment, threaten members of the community, etc… I would be arrested and charged!’
Another user, Simon Corrigan, said: ‘I’m sorry did I just read that right! Yes must be massive upsetting being moved on to pillage another local community while leaving a huge clean up operation & associated costs for the previous location. It’s a lifestyle they choose but we get the hassle, ASB and the bill.’
Surrey Police have been approached for comment.
Residents in Thames Ditton have claimed since the new arrivals turned up on Sunday shoplifting has increased, locals have been threatened, bikes have been stolen and the group have left loo roll strewn in bushes after using the woods as a toilet.
One neighbour told MailOnline: ‘I’ve been crying my eyes out. I’m already at my wit’s end and they’ve only just arrived.
The travellers had previously set up a camp in Cobham, six miles away, last week, pictured, but were moved on
The group drove just six miles down the road from Cobham, pictured, after being handed an eviction notice
Locals living in well-heeled Thames Ditton say that they are at their wits’ end after a mob of 200 travellers (pictured) decamped to their recreation ground from nearby Cobham
Locals have complained to police that shoplifting has gone up as has bike thefts while residents say they have felt threatened
They plumbed into the cricket pitch water supply and created a giant puddle of mud on the once immaculate sports field and parked caravans and vehicles around the perimeter
On Friday, Guildford magistrates took eight minutes to grant the local authority’s application to have 32 caravans and 35 other vehicles evicted from Cobham Recreation Field
‘They’ve camped just behind our garden, so we can hear their generators running all night and they left music blaring out of an empty open vehicle at 2am on Monday. I can’t open my windows in this heat and we’re restless all night because of them.
‘I took pictures and a 14-year-old boy told me to ‘stop taking pictures or he’d f*** me up.’
Her husband, who also didn’t want to be identified, added: ‘When you call the police they tell you to call the council 24-hour helpline, but it’s just a recorded message. Our MP Dominic Raab is useless. What are we paying our taxes for? Yet if we do anything wrong the law comes down on us.
‘We’ve already picked up about 20 dumped bottles because we don’t want to tread on broken glass and there’s toilet roll in the bushes suggesting they’re defecating there.
‘Who knows what the clean-up bill is going to be. I’ve heard that it costs £9,000 for the council’s eviction notice and it cost £17,000 to clean up Cobham, after they’d trashed the site there.’
On Friday, Guildford magistrates took eight minutes to grant the local authority’s application to have 32 caravans and 35 other vehicles evicted from Cobham Recreation Field.
But less than 48 hours later, the same group barged their way past residents and into Long Ditton Recreation Ground on Sunday, trashing the entrance sign
Rubbish has been left on the common where the 200-strong traveller group arrived on Sunday and have clashed with residents
They plumbed into the cricket pitch water supply and created a giant puddle of mud on the once pristine sports field and parked caravans and vehicles around the perimeter
But less than 48 hours later, the same group barged their way past residents and into Long Ditton Recreation Ground on Sunday, trashing the entrance sign.
They plumbed into the cricket pitch water supply and created a giant puddle of mud on the once immaculate sports field and parked caravans and vehicles around the perimeter.
Neighbour Marilyn French, 68, added: ‘My daughter saw one of them peeing in the grass yesterday.
‘The recreation ground is used by dog walkers, kids, joggers, the elderly and as a community field where people have football, cricket and tennis matches. No one can get anywhere near now, which is a real shame as it’s such a lovely place, particularly in the summer.’
Another neighbour said: ‘Neighbours have been kept up until 4am because even their kids are driving cars and quad bikes around the field all night.
‘The police are warning us to lock everything up as they’ve had reports of an increase in bike thefts. We’ve been told that Elmbridge Council has served them with an eviction notice, giving them 10 days to leave and that the authorities have been inundated with complaints from residents.’
Residents in Ham, where travellers have set up camp this week, pictured, have also complained to police about them using green spaces this summer
Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith has also raised the issue of travellers in Ham, with police previously called to sites in July. Pictured are travellers near the Palm Centre in Ham today
Residents in Ham have complained of travellers ‘using the place as a toilet’ and have repeatedly asked for them to be evicted
Travellers have been seen playing with their children and pushing prams and buggies around the site, pictured
It is believed to be the third time travellers have set up camp in Ham this year and residents have said they are concerned about their proximity to a children’s playground
Gas canisters and garden furniture have been set up around the site in Ham, pictured today
A portable chicken coop has even been set up by the travellers who have moved onto land in Ham, near Richmond
Piles of logs are also being stacked up at the site, with tree surgeons’ vehicles spotted at the site, pictured
A traveller in Ham is pictured adjusting his caravan, which is hooked up to a gas canister and unclipped from a vehicle
Elmbridge Council said it had been granted a hearing at Guildford Magistrates Court to hear an application to remove them. Once granted, the council said, the travellers will be served with a removal order to get them off the land and a clean up operation will begin.
Selva Kumar, who runs a local convenience store, told MailOnline he was planning to close his shop early after being targeted for shoplifting by traveller children.
‘They’ve come in several times as a gang and while some buy stuff, others steal stock like chocolate from the shelves. I’ve got no idea how much they’ve taken.
‘But they’re intimidating so I’m too scared to challenge them, even though I know exactly what they’re doing.
‘I’m working really hard to make an honest living and they’re just helping themselves and there’s nothing that I can do about it. It’s really upsetting.’
The group – including children and young mothers – were spotted targeting the shop again today.
A waitress at a local café told how the new arrivals had been taking the salt and sugar and called her colleague a ‘b****’ when they were asked to leave.
‘They were emptying out the salt and sugar and hiding in the loos, until a colleague asked them to leave and was told that she was a b****,’ she said.
‘Another colleague’s teenage son and his friends were chased out of the park by a gang wielding hockey sticks and driving vehicles straight at them on Sunday night. They ran into a local pub where the landlord called the police.’
Travellers in Ringmer, East Sussex, pictured, have set their camp up near a children’s playground
Cars and caravans have been driven on to grass that is fenced off with the travellers making themselves at home, pictured
Some of the caravans have been parked outside buildings belonging to Ringmer Cricket Club, pictured
Lewes Police last night said it had conducted a site assessment and would be revisiting the cricket club this morning with council officials to take the matter forward
Caravans have also been set up on the village green, pictured, and complaints have been made to local MP Maria Caulfield
The travellers in Sussex have also set up garden furniture on the green and brought livestock with them, pictured
Justbrowzin32 tweeted about the travellers on Sunday: ‘Just witnessed kid aged approx 4 driving a TODDLER at speed on a motorised quad which then overturned in Long Ditton Park. Screaming could be heard for miles (both being comforted in photo). SO DANGEROUS!! Surely not ok?!’
Residents have also posted their concerns on a Thames Ditton Facebook page.
Lisa Festa wrote: ‘You’ll probably find it funny that my son is currently sleeping in my bed as he’s too scared to sleep in his own as a result of them moving so close to our home’
Debbie Davidson said: ‘Just witnessed kids throwing beer bottles over the fence by the children’s play area. Laughing as they smashed on the pavement and against cars parked along the road there.’
Malin Andersson said: ‘I saw a child behind the wheel this morning, driving around the park.’
Another went on: ‘At 9.30pm there were at least three vehicles driving at speed around the park with kids behind the wheel, also quad bikes zooming around. Combined with the bottle smashing I am feeling very unhappy.
‘The police cannot do anything. Spoke with an officer tonight over water mains now being accessed by them. The park is becoming a bog land and area ruined by all the drifting of vehicles. All everyone can do is contact Elmbridge (council) with all that is witnessed.’
Meanwhile complaints have been raised by locals in both Ham and Ringmer since travellers moved onto the green spaces.
The group in Ham have set up gas canisters around their caravans and even erected a temporary chicken coop.
It comes weeks after another group of travellers camped out in the village and were moved on after the cause was picked up by MP Zac Goldsmith.
But furious residents are upset they have returned and are ‘using the area like a toilet’.
In Ringmer the travellers have made camp outside the local cricket club and on the village green, with residents again complaining to their MP, in this case Maria Caulfield.
Lewes Police has confirmed it is working with the council to inspect the site and see if the travellers need to be removed.
Other residents in Ringmer have complained about the camp’s proximity to a children’s playground.