Friday, 17 September 2021

Village vandal caught thanks to CCTV

A YOUTH who vandalised a flagpole at a village sports pavilion has been traced and punished after being caught on CCTV.

The teenage boy will have to write a letter of apology to Stoke Row Sports and Leisure Club, a charity which owns the facility in Newlands Lane, and carry out two hours of community work.

He and a friend were caught on camera attacking the hollow steel pole, which is one of two that Stoke Row cubs and beavers use for activities during the summer, at about 7pm on September 21. The other youth grabbed the base and shook it violently for several minutes until the first boy took over, continuing to do so until it snapped in two. He threw the finial from the top half into a hedgerow before fleeing.

A neighbour heard the noise and came out to investigate, then reported the damage to the club.

Club secretary June Chalker uploaded the footage of the incident on the village’s Facebook page and several residents identified the pair, who live in the village. She informed the police, who interviewed the boys and issued the main culprit with a youth restorative disposal order.

The CCTV was installed last year after youths broke into the pavilion and let off a fire extinguisher, smashed framed photographs of the cricket team and discarded beer bottles on the floor.

Mrs Chalker said: “Since then we’ve caught kids messing about on CCTV and I’ve told them off but this crossed the line and made me see red. Some people said it was a bit extreme going to the police but you never know what you’ll get if you take it up directly with the family.

“The same two names came up several times on Facebook and there were a lot of angry comments, saying the parents should pay or the children should be made to cut the grass with scissors.

“I know that kids do silly things but this was criminal damage and I’m so glad that we were able to do something about it with the help of social media and the police, who handled it really well.”

Thames Valley Police said: “The youth restorative disposal order acts as warning and is an agreement between the offender and the victim that they will not behave like this again and often includes a recompense for the crime.

“If the agreement is broken by the offender and the behaviour continues then they can be arrested. A YRD order is considered the first level of intervention from the police towards a child who starts to commit crime.”

The flagpole, which cost £450, has been repaired and reinforced to prevent a repeat incident.

Meanwhile, the safety surface at the toddler playground in Woodcote has been vandalised.

A section beneath the carousel had come loose and the village green committee, which maintains the amenity off Reading Road, arranged for it to be repaired.

However, a group of youths struck before the coating set. They were spotted tearing chunks off and hurling them at passing cars on the afternoon of September 10. Police were informed but nobody was caught.

Committee member Ken Groom said: “This act of criminal damage might have caused serious injury to a child and could result in prosecution and a criminal record.

“We hope someone will come forward with names. Having to pay for the costs of vandalism will inevitably lead to higher insurance premiums that the parish council pays, which is bound to reduce the sums available to improve facilities in the village.

“We can all help by being vigilant and promptly reporting any antisocial acts.”

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