New neighbourhood police sergeant meets Harpenden residents
- Credit: Gene Weatherley
Harpenden residents got the chance to meet their new neighbourhood sergeant and the district’s new chief inspector at Neighbourhood Watch meeting.
The meeting was arranged following a Herts Advertiser interview with former Chief Insp Shane O’Neill about a spate of burglaries in the district.
His replacement, Chief Insp Stuart Cheek, attended Monday night’s event at Park Hall, along with Harpenden’s new sergeant Jordon Fox, Det Insp Alex Warwick, watch liaison officer Derek Sweeney, Trading Standards’ Susan Shanahan and town mayor Rosemary Farmer.
Det Insp Warwick, who covers St Albans district and has investigated several recent burglaries, spoke first and said: “We are concerned about the burglary problem. There has been a significant increase in burglaries in Harpenden West and Rural between November 2017 and the end of February. There were 75 burglaries and attempted burglaries as opposed to around 30 in the previous year. “We do not know why we had that problem. It’s usual to see a rise in dwelling burglaries before Christmas, but this was extreme and prolonged.”
She pointed to Harpenden’s close links to Luton and London and the perception of it as an affluent area, which is attractive to criminals.
The rest of St Albans district also saw an increase in dwelling burglaries, as had the county and other parts of the UK.
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There has been a reduction this month, following the arrest and charging of six prolific burglars, Det Insp Warwick reported.
She said this was down to the positive steps the police had taken - including disrupting criminal gangs, high-visibility and covert patrols, and greater use of resources such as dog units and traffic police - so burglars were seeing the area as less attractive.
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“But we are not resting on our laurels”, she said. Aside than one, none of the arrested burglars were known in the area.
“You are our eyes and ears and we need to work together to tackle this problem. Do not feel afraid to pick up the phone and call us.”
She was followed by Sgt Jordon Fox, who has recently transferred to the Harpenden area from his previous beat in St Albans city centre.
He said: “I see this as a challenge for the area: to protect you and keep the people travelling into the area out and make this a difficult place to commit crime.”
He highlighted the work of the Safer Streets campaign, where police gave advice to residents about crime prevention and also listened to their concerns.
Sgt Fox said: “I would rather you call than not call at all. The more information I have I can better decide where to send our resources.”
Up next was the Watch’s liaison with Herts police, Derek Sweeney, a former Metropolitan Police officer.
He praised the Online Watch Link (OWL) system, which sends details of local crimes and lists of resources to residents, as “the best communications system in the country”.
He reiterated Det Insp Warwick and Sgt Fox’s message that people ought to contact them if they spot suspicious behaviour, saying he once received a phone call from a Watch member about a house opposite her son’s which had curtains closed but a bright white light on inside.
Within 48 hours police raided the property and found a trove of cannabis worth £53k.
The final talk was from Susan Shanahan of Trading Standards, who told people to watch out for traders offering services which gain them access to the property, such as roof washing and gutter cleaning.
She advised to use tradespeople recommended by friends or Trading Standards or Which?