Friday, 06 December 2019

Police criticised over response to vandalism

POLICE have been criticised again for their response to crime in the Sonning Common area.

It comes after officers took three hours to arrive at the scene of a vandal attack at Bishopswood Sports Ground in Gallowstree Common when a stolen car was driven across a football pitch and then set on fire in nearby woods.

Goalposts were broken and the pitch was damaged in the incident, which happened on April 9 and was very similar to one at the same place in 2017 which also led to criticism of the police.

Rotherfield United Football Club says repairs and replacing equipment could cost as much as £10,000.

Trevor Back, facilities manager at the club, said the police sent a car from Aylesbury, which took three hours because the officers struggled to find the ground off Horsepond Road.

And when he tried last week to get information on how the investigation was going, Thames Valley Police were unhelpful.

Mr Back said: “I phoned up three times to try to get a report on it. They just don’t want to know, probably because they are under pressure. They told me they couldn’t tell me anything on the phone — they are not going to do anything for a football club.”

He said the bumper of the Nissan with the registration plate was ripped off during the incident so the police should have been able to trace the owner, which might have helped the investigation.

Mr Back said: “If they do not pursue it, all the evidence will have gone. The trail went cold as soon as it happened really.

“It has happened before and it doesn’t take a genius to work out they are probably the same people.

“We do not get any support. We are lucky if we see a police officer in Sonning Common. We need more officers on the beat. We want to be able to rely on the police to back us as law-abiding citizens.”

In August 2017, the skate park in the recreation ground was targeted by vandals when three golf buggies stolen from Caversham Heath Golf Club, near Mapledurham, were set on fire together with fencing, bins and benches.

The heat from the fire damaged the concrete, making it unusable by skaters until it was repaired.

At the time, Sonning Common parish clerk Philip Collings accused the police of “doing diddly squat” to investigate the incident.

He complained that officers had not contacted any of the victims or visited any of the crime scenes for more than two weeks after it happened, adding: “Their behaviour at present suggests they can’t be bothered.”

The then head of Henley police admitted the force made mistakes in its response to the crime and pledged to ensure such failings didn’t happen again.

This week, Mr Collings said: “We are very annoyed because the police keep talking about rural crime but do nothing about it.

“We want to have something done about these things. We think that if they put the effort into all these cases and did more proper policing they could find out what had happened.

“We do not know what they are doing.

“Last time round if they had come out and done the detective work the day after instead of three weeks later, they would probably have caught them.

“The police did nothing about it until we had the headline in the paper.

“This is almost an exact repeat and we suspect some of the same lads are involved.”

Thames Valley Police said it was not aware that a complaint had been made and it did not respond to criticism via the media.

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