RESIDENTS who packed a public meeting in Totton to air their concerns over crime challenged claims by police it had gone down.
The event was organised by town councilor Neville Penman who said he wanted to give locals the chance to find out from police what action is being taken to tackle criminals.
Insp. Helen Andrews told the audience at AFC Totton’s Testwood stadium she did not want people to get “fixated” on the numbers of officers the area had.
She said Totton had five PCs and five PCSOs, but the area also had support from the team at Lyndhurst in addition to armed response officers in Southampton. The force also had police dog handlers and the use of a helicopter if required.
Turning to the previous crime meeting held at Calmore Community Centre last year, she admitted the area had seen “a bit of a blip”, including a number of shed and garage break-ins, thefts of bikes and from cars.
Explaining that officers had been carrying out covert and high-profile operations, she said: “In the last few weeks, I have noticed a lot less reported crime. We are not going to stop everything, but the word is getting out that we are there.
“We do rely on you guys coming forward and telling us [information]. We do need your help. I do not believe there is a crime problem in Calmore and I am proud of what the team has done to achieve this in the last three months. That work will continue. We will never stop it completely, but we are seeing a difference and I hope you are.”
However, Insp. Andrews’ claims were disputed by angry locals, who said they had recently been victims of crime. One man named Tony told the meeting that he had spotted a male on CCTV looking through the patio doors of his home.
Despite contacting the police, it took eight days for an officer to visit his home. The officer then identified the male on CCTV as a known criminal. Tony added: “What’s he been doing for eight days? Someone is not looking at the intelligence. It’s deplorable really.”
Another resident said: “I’ve emailed information about people dealing drugs – their cars, what they are wearing. I’ve also phoned 999 and been accused of wasting police time as it was not urgent.”
A resident named Dave, who lives near to Calmore Industrial Estate, said he had been plagued with noise from youths riding around on scramble bikes.
He said: “It’s basically nightly and at weekends. We’ve been keeping a log of the incidents, collecting number plates and getting camera footage. It’s impacting a wide area [of the town] and on the mental health of the people who live in the road. I’m hearing it every day and it’s too much.”
Another resident claimed she had left messages for an officer, but had no reply. She said: “You have to help. We keep reporting it, but we don’t get a response.”
A third resident said he had “given up” reporting the motorcyclists despite collecting two months’ worth of evidence after being told the police had no resources to deal with it.
Insp. Andrews said there had only been seven reports since September over concerns about young people riding motorcycles dangerously.
She added: “We need people to report it. Once we know there is a problem, we can do something. We all try our best out there and do our best to protect the area. Gone are the days where we were walking up and down the streets. Unfortunately, those days are gone.”
Cllr Arthur Davis, a Totton and Eling town councillor, said he felt the area needed more officers. He said he had been speaking with New Forest District Council about a moveable CCTV camera, which can be tasked to problem areas when required.
He added: “We could put it up in Calmore and we could get the evidence [of the antisocial behaviour]. I’m pushing for that.”
Town councillor, Cllr Alex Brunsdon, who works for a CCTV company, offered to donate equipment if it meant the perpetrators were caught.
Another resident, Ian, queried what was being done by crime prevention officers within the force, to which Insp. Andrews said there were none at present, but this could be a possibility.
The meeting also heard that between 2013 and 2017 crime in the area had risen each year, but dropped by 25% in 2018.
A surprised resident said: “You keep saying the stats have gone down, but how many people have you arrested?”
A man who identified himself as the owner and postmaster of a local shop told the meeting he had been broken into 15 times but had been left disappointed by the response from police.
He said: “I’ve chased them up many times. On one occasion the case was dismissed as an officer did not attend and CCTV was lost.
“The community is being affected [by crime]. We are told, if you are a victim of crime call 101. But then nothing happens afterwards.”
The meeting concluded with Insp. Andrews offering crime prevention advice to residents, such as removing valuables from vehicles and closing internal doors so thieves cannot look into empty properties.
Cllr Penman also urged residents to get involved. He said: “I understand you’re all frustrated – I’m the same. If you want to do something about it, join the neighbourhood watch.” He said there were only eight schemes running in the town so far.