Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Antisocial behaviour is being tackled, say police

ANTISOCIAL behaviour by youngsters in Sonning Common is being effectively tackled by police, according to a neighbourhood sergeant.

Sgt Neil Anns, head of neighbourhood policing for the Henley area, said the village was a safe place to live with minimal problems with crime.

He said in the last year, after domestic crimes were removed, only 10 of 952 crimes reported in his area were in Sonning Common.

Earlier this year members of Sonning Common Parish Council and its clerk Philip Collings criticised Thames Valley Police for failing to solve crime in rural areas.

In the last three months the Co-op in Wood Lane has twice been raided twice by burglars.

Speaking at a parish council meeting on Monday, Sgt Anns said: “Antisocial behaviour is what I am picking up as a concern from the community. We have not had any antisocial behaviour reported in the last three months. I feel Sonning Common is an incredibly safe place.

“We have attended the incidents at the Co-op and these are active investigations so I can’t go into details on those.” Councillor Leigh Rawlins asked if there was an allocation of hours for officers and police community support officers to spend time in Sonning Common.

“Kids growing up don’t relate to the police officers and have no idea there is such a thing as neighbourhood policing or living in a environment where prevention is important,” he said. “I think there is a real importance in showing a presence and creating an atmosphere.”

Sgt Anns replied saying the force was concentrating officer time at certain times of the week. This included targeted patrols in the Reades Lane area, near Chiltern Edge School where the village youth club is held on Tuesday nights.

He said: “Our team are now here every Tuesday from 6pm to 10pm on patrol around the youth club as antisocial behaviour was happening around the youth club at the school at these times. If there were other issues and our analytics tells us there are issues at certain times, then we know when to be here.”

Sgt Anns said Thames Valley Police had an 18 per cent cut in its budget from Government while the demand for police has increased by 16 per cent in the last year.

Councillor John Stoves said he was concerned the lack of police presence in the village meant residents were not reporting crimes.

“They have come to the conclusion that nothing will be done,” he said. “I agree with Sgt Anns that it is a safe place to live but like hundreds of other places there are problems with low level crime.

“When was the last time you saw a report in the paper about someone being fined for dropping litter?”

Sgt Anns said the force was stretched due to major policing operations for the visit of American president Donald Trump and the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It was also sending officers to help in Wiltshire due to the Novichok poisonings in Salisbury and Amesbury.

“Crime is up nationally by a third and the terrorism threat level is severe and has been for nearly two years,” Sgt Anns said. “Due to the pace and complexity of policing we are struggling to maintain our levels.

“People used to see us driving in and out of the village to the old office. We are coming here based on what the public is telling us.”

Councillor Douglas Kedge said the police were not coping with the demands placed on them.

“I get annoyed when chief constables and other senior officers say they are in a challenging situation,” he said. “It’s not a challenge because it is an impossible situation. You are not coping. The police at a senior level are using the wrong language.”

Councillor Dirk Jones said he was concerned by drug dealing going on in the village.

“I know there are a lot of drugs,” he said. “There are people who are kids of some of the kids I know from working with the youth club 15 years ago. I hear nothing whatsoever about sorting it out but it is very active.

“This feeds habits and costs the public money. Quite a lot of these problems will never disappear but there needs to be a sense it is going to be hit.”

Sgt Anns replied saying members of the public should pass information on to the police, via the 101 non-emergency number and this would be used to build a case and allow extra resources to be made available to tackle the problem.

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