HALLOWEEN proved an unhappy occasion for residents in one corner of the district when youths ran riot smashing cars and windows.

A gang of up to 20 youths attacked displays at Metro Stores, in Chigwell Road, Chigwell, before running up and down next door Smeaton Road, smashing car windows as they went.

Metro manager Muhammad Riaz was on the front counter when the youths struck last night (October 31).

He said: “They threw a stone at the window and the glass broke. I was just going outside to see what had happened when about 15 to 20 guys entered. They threw everything on the counter on the floor and everything was smashed up.

“I said: 'What are you doing? What are you doing?' but they went out and in one minute they had smashed everything. Then they broke the door with a big brick.

“They were all wearing masks and shouting. They weren't very big so I think they were under 18.

“I called the police and they came in four or five minutes and wrote everything down. It's approximately £500 of damage and they took some items.

“I don't know why they did it. It makes you scared because you think they could come back any time.”

Nia Gurriera of Smeaton Road, said:“I went out just before it started and when I came back there were a couple of police cars here. A guy down the road said there were about 15 of them all dressed in hoodies who forced their way into the shop then ran up and down the road. There were about three cars with their back windows smashed in .

“We've never had that before. I've lived here four years and it's the first time it's happened. It's pretty scary.”

Loughton-based Inspector Tom Simons laid the blame for the crimes at the door of youths from neighbouring Redbridge.

He said: “It was a particularly busy night. Our resources were stretched with a large number of youths from Hainault travelling into the Chigwell area carrying out damage.

“When we have this number of youths coming out, identifying them for an offence is difficult. We are reviewing all our evidence and working with the Met to identify them.”

Halloween night saw four arrests in the Epping Forest area- three for assaulting PCSOs and one for breach of bail.

Countywide, Essex Police reported 123 arrests for anti-social behaviour, 22 for criminal damage and seven for assault, which is one fewer crime than Halloween last year