A public meeting is being organised to give Melton people a forum to voice their concerns to police and council officials following the recent upsurge in crime in the borough.
The move was announced by Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, Lord Willy Bach, as he took part in a special ‘crime walkabout’ with Melton Council leader, Councillor Joe Orson, in the town centre on Tuesday.
Many residents have become alarmed by a spate of criminal activity which has seen arsonists attack cars, burglars breaking into multiple shops and businesses, armed raiders threatening store owners and thieves stealing tools and other valuable equipment from the vehicles of tradespeople since the turn of the year.
Recent figures show reported crime in the Melton area was up 22 per cent in the 12 months up to March, compared to the same period the previous year.
After being presented, on his Melton walkabout, with a petition with more than 600 signatures calling for stronger action to be taken by police and other agencies, Lord Bach told the Melton Times: “I have requested a public meeting to give residents the opportunity to tell us about their concerns and fears about crime in Melton.
“No date has been set but it is likely to be in a couple of months.
“It’s quite rare for us to organise a public meeting but we thought it was important in light of the petition I have received today and the concerns of local people that they get the chance to talk about the issues affecting the borough.”
Lord Bach chatted with shoppers in Market Place on another busy market day and made his way up Nottingham Street to talk to visitors to Melton’s livestock market.
He was accompanied by Councillor Orson and Insp Gavin Drummond, the neighbourhood policing commander for Melton.
Lord Bach pointed out that Melton was still the second safest area of Leicestershire, in terms of criminal activity, despite the perception that offences were on the increase.
“I’m pleased to hear that our officers have arrested quite a number of people responsible for a number of offences in recent weeks,” he added.
“It’s a fact that funding cuts have put the county’s police force in a difficult position, to the point that we have lost 23 per cent of our officers in recent years.”
Councillor Orson welcomed the announcement of the public meeting and said the ‘walkabout’ with the crime commissioner was a valuable exercise.
“I am talking to people today and taking on board all their concerns so we can decide what to do about them,” he said.
“It important to realise that we live in a relatively safe part of the country, in terms of crime.
“We are visiting the cattle market because rural crime is on the increase and it’s a massive concern, particularly for the farming community.”
Councillor Orson added: “Many of the offenders in recent week actually live in Melton - they don’t come from outside the area - so local people can really help the police in their intelligence work.
“There are also powers the council can enforce if convicted criminals live in council properties and these are constantly being reviewed.”
Chris Fisher, who presented the petition to the crime commissioner, said: “People in Melton do feel that there is more crime in the town.
“The arson incidents on the Fairmead Estate have been a real concern and the many break-ins.”
* Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan was unavailable to attend the ‘crime walkabout’ but he has called on the courts to deliver tougher sentences on those convicted.
He said: “Some of the people arrested in Melton have multiple offences on their records and the courts are just not being sufficiently robust.
“The people of Melton and the town’s police force is being let down by the courts time and again.
“The police know who is responsible for a lot of these crimes but when they are arrested and sent to court they are often being let out again.
“I would like to see the offenders with their hands tied behind their backs for a change rather than police officers having to work with their hands tied behind their backs.”