PROBLEMS with boy racers at Lakeside might have been worse this winter than in previous years as cruisers flocked to the area to pay homage to Paul Walker, it was claimed.
The Fast and the Furious actor died in a car crash in LA in November.
Leigh Norris, the West Thurrock neighbourhood inspector made the comments while explaining to Chafford Hundred residents what police have done and what they plan to do to clamp down on cruisers in the Lakeside basin.
Problems with cruiser meets – which often digress into races around the Lakeside basin – tend to peter out in the winter. But residents claim they have been blighted by noise in recent months.
Walker had featured in the films, which are based on the street racing and car modification scene in America. Insp. Norris said one recent meet at Thurrock services was arranged in memory of the 40-year-old.
He told the meeting: “Part of me – and some of my staff – think that some activity may have continued over the winter, possibly because of the death of Paul Walker. He died in a high speed collision. That’s just a theory. It could also be partly down to the dispersal order not being continued through winter.”
His comments came at a fiery meeting, chaired by the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston, which focussed on crime in Chafford Hundred.
A document handed around at the meeting said, to tackle cruisers, police intend to:
*introduce a new dispersal order in April 2014
*install CCTV cameras covering the roads in the Lakeside basin
*put road calming measures in place on the A126 and B186 (West Thurrock Way)
*begin using new speed guns
*increase patrols at key times Insp. Norris explained work the police have already done to clamp down on wreckless racers haring around the roads at Lakeside.
But residents claimed the problem, which has been going on for 20 years, is getting worse.
One man, a Chafford Hundred resident, said: “While I was out last weekend, I came up the slip road to the A126 roundabout and saw loads of cars all parked up on the A126 bridge.
“A Vauxhall Corsa was going the wrong way around the roundabout and coming straight towards us. It's unbelievable.”
He said cruisers were doing that in a bid to beat a new barrier at the Dumb-bell roundabout aimed at discouraging drivers from racing up and down the A126.
Other residents argued that they do not know who to complain to about the problem. One said: “Is it going to take a fatality for something to be done?”
Insp. Norris said he wanted to make the area unattractive to cruisers. He said that Thurrock Council were in discussion with developers behind the plans for 350 new homes and a Morrison supermarket on the old Mecca bingo site to make changes to West Thurrock Way.
Racers around Lakeside
He added that a lot of work had already been done with businesses on the retail parks.
Angie Gaywood, the council’s portfolio holder for public protection added that McDonald’s also need to take more responsibility. The 24-hour fast food outlet is a magnet for cruisers.
She said: “McDonald’s have been very slow coming to the table. But they’re here now and we’re in talks with them. They realise there as much a cause of the problem as they are a solution to it.”