Saturday, 13 August 2022

Police under fire again for lack of presence in village

POLICING in Sonning Common has been criticised by the parish council for the second time in a month.

Carole Lewis, who chairs the council, complained that there was no police presence in the village and said that in one recent incident two women were told to go to Didcot to report a crime.

Last month, parish clerk Philip Collings complained that drug dealing, shoplifting and motoring offences were all taking place in the village unchallenged.

In an email to Sgt Neil Anns, head of neighbourhood police for the Henley area, he criticised plans for a new local area forum meeting quarterly instead of officers attending the monthly parish council meetings.

Councillor Lewis spoke out at the council’s most recent meeting, saying residents felt crime was not being tackled by the police.

She said two women were walking a dog in Millenium Field when a man “started behaving inappropriately” towards them.

Cllr Lewis said: “They put it online and were urged to report it. When one of the woman did so she was asked to got to Didcot.

“That is unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable.

“We are not talking about crimes against property, this has got people involved.

“There is no [police] presence in the village. It is not good enough.”

Councillor Leigh Rawlins said Thames Valley Police recently appointed a deputy police and crime commissioner who will be paid £45,000 a year for the part-time role.

“We can have this but the village can’t have a police community support officer,” he said. “Some are suggesting the face of crime is changing but so is the face of policing. The ones we do have cover more than one place.”

Councillor John Stoves said the council had done its bit to help the police but was not receiving a good service in return.

The council has installed more than 10 CCTV cameras around the village hall and car park.

“We are doing what we can but we do not get any support when we report anything,” said Cllr Stoves.

“We have paid out over a period of time and now I wonder what was the point.”

Mr Collings said the village street cleaner Mark Weston had seen people behaving suspiciously by leaving markings outside houses.

In his email to Sgt Anns, he said the forum would be a “talking shop”.

He said it appeared to councillors to be “part of an increasing neglect of what the public they represent wants and expects from the police body that was once called a force but no longer”, adding: “The public has little or no faith that Thames Valley Police is even intersted in their concerns.”

Mr Collings told last week’s meeting that he had not heard anything back from Sgt Anns.

“I have not had an acknowledgement, let alone a response,” he said. “I am not surprised.”

Henley MP John Howell, who attended a meeting with about 70 residents earlier this month, said the nature of crime had become more complex and police needed to adapt accordingly.

He said: “We have seen the prevalence of rural crime which, with the help of farmers, is being tackled.

“That still leaves the problems identified at the meeting of break-ins to cars and vans.

“It is worth noting that crimes traditionally measured by the Independent Crime Survey for England and Wales are actually down by over a third since June 2010.”

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