Lifebelt thieves put lives at risk

CALLOUS thieves and vandals have been putting lives at risk in a seaside down by stealing 30 lifebelts, it has been revealed.

James Hore

CALLOUS thieves and vandals have been putting lives at risk in a seaside down by stealing 30 lifebelts, it has been revealed.

The orange lifebelts - which will cost around �1,000 to replace - have been stolen during the past four weeks from the seafront in Clacton.

The worst affected area of coastline is from the east side of Clacton Pier to Gunfleet Sailing Club.

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So far only three of the lifebelts have been recovered by Tendring District Council staff who regularly check to see if any are missing.

About 150 of the lifebelts are removed along the whole of the Tendring coastline each year.

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Pierre Oxley, in charge of leisure at the council, said he was disgusted that anyone would steal the potential lifesavers.

“You never know when a lifebelt might be needed by someone who may get into difficulty in the sea,” he said.

“This is why they are stationed at regular intervals along the coast and we make sure that they are maintained on their station. “Checks are carried out weekly in the winter and daily during the summer season.”

Mr Oxley said he was “appalled” to learn that so many had been taken from one stretch of the Lower Promenade at Clacton during such a short period of time.

He asked if anyone found one to contact the council's seafront manager, Tim Sutton, and anyone who had any information about the thefts to contact Clacton Police.

“It is a criminal offence to tamper with this equipment and the council will definitely press for a prosecution if there is the evidence available.

“It is certainly in everyone's interests to see these people caught. It maybe you, or one of your family that needs to be rescued and council tax payers are also being hit in the pocket as the lifebelts have to be replaced and paid for,” he said.

Mr Sutton said he found it difficult to understand why anyone would take one of the lifebelts.

“They are of little use or value to anyone else - but may well be the difference between life and death for someone who gets into danger in the water,” he said.

The council has 84 lifebelt stations along the entire stretch of the Tendring coastline and has seen more than 1,000 removed during the past decade.

Anyone who finds one can call 01255 686681.

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