Bedfordshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Sharn Basra has called a number of incidents in Bedford on Wednesday (10 November) “completely unacceptable” and promises they are being taken “very seriously.”
The Bedford Independent has been shown videos of vehicles being driven recklessly and at high speeds along Bedford’s High Street and surrounding roads.
In some of the videos, people can be seen hanging out of cars waving dead hares and jeering at passersby.
Another video shows cars smashing into each other close to pedestrians before speeding off. Later one of the vehicles appears to have smashed into a bus.
We have shared these videos, currently being shared across messaging groups, with Bedfordshire Police. It is not known where the videos originated.
We have chosen not to show them in full here so as to not jeopardise the police investigation.
“Fear on a town”
“We understand that this is a concerning incident to members of the Bedford community, and we want to reassure them that we are investigating,” said Bedfordshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Sharn Basra.
“Such behaviour will not be tolerated in our county… we will be increasing the number of officers patrolling the town centre over the weekend, as well as continuing to work with key stakeholders to support our community,” he added.
Bedfordians have reacted angrily to the police handling of the incidents, with many voicing disappointment on the force’s own Facebook page.
“People should be able to go about their business in safety on any day. No group should be allowed to bring fear on a town,” said one.
Another added, “why were my freedoms inhibited because of unruly lawbreakers? Why should they run roughshod over the people of the town and get away with it? Surely if they continue in this manner we have lost the law by not enforcing it?”
The events surrounded a funeral taking place at the crematorium on Norse Road.
Pubs, bars and some other businesses in the area closed for the afternoon and evening, losing out on much-needed post-pandemic business.
The Bedford Independent heard as early as Sunday (7 November) that a number of pubs had planned to close on Wednesday, but police reportedly only issued advice on the morning of the funeral.
ACC Basra, however, said Bedfordshire Police do not “underestimate the impact it has had on our Bedford residents and businesses.”
Bedfordshire Police said they worked with the family, cemetery and Bedford Borough Council so mourners could attend safely to pay their rightful respects.
Police officers were assigned to the event but ACC Basra says intelligence let them down and they were unprepared for behaviour prior to the service.
“The event was resourced by police based on the intelligence and information we had received, including the deployment of officers to key locations,” he said.
“While the service at the crematorium passed without issue, the events that proceeded it differed significantly to the information we had initially received, and clearly the behaviour during the cortege was completely unacceptable and we are taking this very seriously.”
Bedfordshire Police’s rural crime team, alongside community officers, and dedicated investigators are now gathering evidence around a number of allegations of public nuisance, including traffic and hunting offences.
ACC Basra said: “We know people will have seen or recorded the incident and we are asking them to share their accounts and footage with us.
“We also want to hear from people who have been impacted by the incident as your accounts could be key to our investigation.”
If you have any information that might help the police in their enquiries, you can contact them via their online reporting tool or by calling 101, quoting Operation Lightening.
You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.