Village security guards 'cut crime'

CONTROVERSIAL private security guards hired to limit vandalism in a Suffolk village plagued by anti-social behaviour have cut crime levels by 25% – proving such a success neighbouring communities may now adopt similar schemes.

CONTROVERSIAL private security guards hired to limit vandalism in a Suffolk village plagued by anti-social behaviour have cut crime levels by 25% – proving such a success neighbouring communities may now adopt similar schemes.

Officials in Glemsford, who masterminded the initiative to introduce guards in February, have now extended their original three-month contract with the security firm as a result of the reductions in crime, and are to offer advice to people in Long Melford regarding private cover.

But representatives of Long Melford Parish Council said they felt their hands had been forced, and have blamed inadequate policing for the recurrent vandalism and public unease rife within their community.

"We are very interested, as vandalism is rife in Long Melford," said Richard Kemp, who serves both on the parish council and on Suffolk County Council.


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"Only last week, vandals ripped a pipe from the outside of our village cricket pavilion, flooding the building with four inches of water.

"The security guard scheme seems to have worked well in Glemsford, and before the election we set up a sub-committee to examine their project.

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"But there is a counter argument saying that one should not be forced to do these types of things – resources are sparse and we only have one police beat officer covering 16 villages, which seems to spread the butter rather thinly.

"We have been promised extra officers, but we are fearful as they do not seem to be materialising very quickly. At the end of the day, all we feel is that policing should be adequate."

In Glemsford, the controversial scheme was extended after a successful three-month trial. In all, six months of cover will cost £4,000.

And the zero-tolerance policy introduced by villagers sickened by the losses caused by vandalism also includes bringing private prosecutions against individuals to recover costs. The first of these actions was successfully settled out of court two weeks ago.

"A lot of older people in Glemsford say they feel safer because of the guards, and vandalism has lessened," said Colin Parmenter, chairman of the village parish council.

"Our local beat officer said crime has been reduced by 25%, but we do not know whether that is entirely down to the private security guards. Nevertheless, we think that if the scheme reduces crime and the cost of vandalism, then it is money well spent.

"We are spreading the message that we will not put up with this behaviour – if the police will not do anything to help us, we will do it ourselves.

"The project has been such a success that when the contract finishes at the end of July we will consider extending it again until the end of the year."

Responding to Mr Kemp's criticisms, Sgt Geoff Nunn, of Suffolk Police, said new officers would take up their roles in the Sudbury area within the next two months.

"We are recruiting as part of our Suffolk First Campaign, and Glemsford and Long Melford will have two local police officers in place by mid July, the first of which will take up their post in the first week of June," he said.

"We would encourage people to report any incidents to us, and we will deal with them.

"If we become aware of particular problems, we do have mechanisms in place to target resources towards dealing with these issues."

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