Tougher justice demanded by Center Parcs crime victims

VICTIMS targeted at a Suffolk holiday resort have vented their anger after it emerged no-one caught in connection with a crime spree worth nearly �300,000 had been jailed.

Since 2008, scores of holidaymakers at Center Parcs in Elveden have been burgled or had their bikes stolen. The total value of items taken in the past two years is more than �270,000.

And despite Center Parcs’ investment in enhanced security, the problems have continued with 28 villa burglaries and 22 bicycle thefts since the start of the year.

But yesterday it emerged that none of those caught by police in connection with burglaries or bicycle thefts had been jailed.

Suffolk police confirmed three people had been given cautions since 2008 – one for burglary and two for stealing bikes.

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In addition, a 25-year-old man from Thetford who admitted burgling nine villas at Centre Parcs among a string of other burglaries was spared jail late last year and instead handed a suspended 30-month prison sentence at Norwich Crown Court.

This has triggered outrage amongst those targeted by criminals during what they hoped would be a relaxing holiday in Suffolk.

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Tina Duffin, from Hornchurch, Essex, whose villa was burgled earlier this year while she and her husband slept upstairs, said the punishments meted out “beggared belief”.

“You can see why they do it – nothing happens to them. Perhaps we are the silly ones for going out and working for our money. It beggars belief really.”

She called for tougher sentences as a means of dissuading other criminals. But a Suffolk police spokeswoman said: “The decision to charge, caution or deal with an arrested person in an alternative way is not taken lightly and is taken by a sergeant or other senior officer or custody staff, often in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service.

“If a caution is given it will have been considered to have been proportionate and appropriate and is recorded to ensure that if the individual comes to the attention of the police again this can be taken into account.”

Inspector Neil Ireland said the continued reports of crime at Center Parcs were being taken “very seriously”, adding: “We believe that Center Parcs is being targeted by a number of individuals and we are keen to receive information relating to crimes on site.”

Simon Kay, a spokesman for Center Parcs, said it was not for the holiday park to comment on law enforcement or the courts.

He said: “Obviously we are encouraged that the number of incidents of this nature has dramatically decreased from earlier in the year

“However, we are not resting on our laurels, and continue to work closely with the local police as well as independent security advisors to ensure that our security remains both robust and effective.

“Our advice to guests is that Center Parcs is a safe environment, however we would advocate sensible security awareness and to take the normal security precautions that they would at home.

“This message is being clearly communicated to guests on arrival at Elveden Forest as well around the village and in villas and lodges.”

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