Holiday village at centre of crime wave

A HOLIDAY village which serves hundreds of thousands of people has found itself at the centre of a crime wave after damning police statistics showed that one bike was stolen every day and one villa broken into per week.

Dave Gooderham

A HOLIDAY village which serves hundreds of thousands of people has found itself at the centre of a crime wave after damning police statistics showed that one bike was stolen every day and one villa broken into per week.

Holidaymakers at Suffolk's Center Parcs site have increasingly become victims of crime with the plush campus repeatedly targeted by thieves.

One victim, who had his �3,000 bicycle stolen from outside his chalet, said the crime spree could turn people away from the holiday park.

But Center Parcs bosses last night revealed it was working with police and spending �150,000 upgrading perimeter fencing to answer the security problems at one of west Suffolk's biggest employers.

Police figures have revealed that more than 130 bikes - most of which have been locked outside villas - have been stolen in 2009 with a further 232 in the last 12 months.

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And the problems have now crept inside the chalets with 25 villas broken into in the last five months at the Elveden Forest site.

Det Insp Andy Smith said: “Theft of pedal cycles in particular has historically been a problem at Center Parcs. Significant numbers of pedal cycles are brought to this area by holidaymakers and this has clearly presented itself as an opportunity for thieves.

“We continue to work closely with Center Parcs and are intent on doing all we can to tackle the problem. A recent crime prevention survey was conducted and a number of recommendations made to Center Parcs which are intended to enhance their current security arrangements. Targeted patrols of the area remain a district priority.”

Jeremy Barnes, who had his �3,000 bike stolen while on holiday in April, feared that the rise in crime could deter people away from the holiday village.

He said: “It is hardly encouraging customers when they know there is a reasonably high chance that they will become a victim of crime.”

Police had initially revealed that 11 bikes - worth thousands of pounds - had been taken from the site. But they yesterday reported a further seven bikes had been stolen since Friday while three villas had been broken into and items stolen within.

Bosses at Center Parcs admitted there was a problem with the high number of thefts and break-ins but said tightening security had become a top priority.

Simon Kay, PR officer at Center Parcs, said: “It is fair to say that we have been targeted. We are working very closely with police and have started a three-year project looking at strengthening our security fencing which will cost �150,000.

“We are planning to step up patrols on-site and enhance our CCTV system. We don't want to scare people and we are talking small numbers compared with the 300,000 guests we have a year.

“Our overriding message from the guests' point of view would be to take the same safety steps as if you were at home.”