Thursday, 19 July 2018

Cameras may be used to stop ‘mindless vandalism’

CAMERAS could be installed in an attempt to stop vandalism at Rivermead in Benson.

CAMERAS could be installed in an attempt to stop vandalism at Rivermead in Benson.

Parish councillors are considering the move at the suggestion of the police as both a deterrent and way to catch the culprits.

In recent months, vandals have disturbed lifebelts and removed the fixtures attaching them to the wall and ripped a noticeboard off the wall, smashing the plastic.

Last year, a tree was damaged and a lifebelt was ripped.

Signs notifying visitors that cameras were present would be erected but the devices themselves would be hidden in bushes and trees.

CCTV cameras would be difficult to install as there is no power supply but a councillor has suggested using the type of battery-operated portable cameras he uses to film wildlife at Ewelme Watercress Beds.

Tom Stevenson, who is manager of the nature reserve, said he had used these to film some hedgehogs that had been released into the wild.

Councillor Dave Rushton, chairman of the council’s recreation and lands committee, said CCTV cameras installed at the parish hall had been effective and he hoped the same would happen at Rivermead.

“Things have been getting worse and worse and we have to do something,” he said. “We have a problem down there and it always gets worse in the summer when the kids aren’t at school. Somebody must have taken something like a hammer down there to smash the noticeboard because the Perspex was quite thick.

“They have also started chipping away at the bricks on the shelter. It is getting to the point where we have to decide whether we repair it or knock the thing down and start again.”

Police officers patrol the area periodically but the council believes this is not enough of a deterrent.

Parish clerk Pete Eldridge said he was concerned that the council would not be able to guarantee the effectiveness of the safety equipment.

“If they do tamper with the lifejackets and someone was hurt then the council could be liable,” he said. “Worryingly, there is this attitude that if you show displeasure with what they do, for example if you reinforce something they have broken, they see it as a challenge. It is mindless vandalism.”

He said the plastic on the noticeboard had been replaced with a thicker sheet but the board wouldn’t be put back until the area was more secure.

A council contractor carries out checks at Rivermead every day and reports any vandalism to Mr Eldridge, who in turn informs the police.

Council chairman Jon Fowler said: “Personally, I don’t particularly like the idea of installing CCTV everywhere since if we install it at Rivermead will it just move the problem elsewhere?

“There does come a point though where some form of action has to be taken when the cost in clearing up or repairing the vandalism gets too great. The council will always seek to prosecute or seek recompense if the perpetrators can be identified.”

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