Victims of crime last night (Thursday) angrily told Melton’s top police officer that they feel vulnerable in their own homes and not enough was being done to protect them from burglars, thieves and vandals.
They were speaking to local neighbourhood commander, Insp Siobhan Gorman, at a public meeting organised in response to an upsurge in social media posts from residents concerned about high levels of criminal activitiy in the town and surrounding villages.
The debate was forced by Melton mum Jaz Lynch-Bolton, who has recently been burgled and had her car stolen and who felt police should be doing more to solve crimes and arrest the perpetrators.
Dozens of people attended the meeting, at John Ferneley College in the town, and passions ran high as attendees were invited to voice their concerns.
A man who said his son’s van had been vandalised by having paint stripper thrown over it was critical over the slow progress of the police investigation.
He told the meeting: “I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my own house.
“I have CCTV and alarms but I still wake up every morning worrying that my property or my car has been broken into.
“I feel the police are just not visible enough and all of us would prefer them to be more visible to stop this happening.”
A woman said: “I’m a victim of crime, I had my car stolen. Car crime seems to be on the increase here and across the country. I would like to know if Melton police are working with other forces across the border because I have no confidence in you.”
And another woman victim of crime told the meeting: “I’ve got young children and I live near the country park.
“There are no lights on at night and I don’t feel safe in my house.”
Mrs Lynch-Bolton, who sat on the stage at the meeting alongside Insp Gorman and her deputy commander, Sgt Iain Wakelam, told the audience: “On the poster for this meeting I was marketing it as Melton mum versus the police but it shouldn’t be about us against them, we need to work together on this.”
She highlighted the fact that residents were paying more money in Council Tax to provide extra funds for Leicestershire Police and asked for assurances that it would result in more police officers being provided.
Insp Gorman said she was unable to confirm whether the extra money would result in an incerease in manpower. She also said she could not reveal how many officers were on duty every day and night due to ‘operational reasons’.
The inspector explained that the local neighbourhood team based at the Melton station were involved in gathering evidence on crimes and engaging with the community and that they liased with a response team, responsible for call-outs across the county, and an investigation unit, which prioritised crimes according to their seriousness.
Suspects are identified, she said, and then arrested, as happened with a recent two-day operation which resulted in eight key arrests, for burglaries, thefts and grievous bodily harm.
Asked why there had been a recent upsurge in break-ins, Sgt Wakelam told the meeting: “We had a succession of well-known burglars let out one after another.
“When they are back on the streets again the crime rate goes up.”
And on why some crimes do not result in prosecutions, he said the Crown Prosecution Service was seeking at least an 85 per cent chance of a conviction before proceeding with a case.
Some at the meeting highlighted the drug problem in the town, saying they had seen people dealing in the streets in broad daylight, and called on police to clamp down on it to prevent addicts stealing from the community.
There were also residents complaining about street lights being turned off in the early hours, which they said enabled criminals to operate without being seen.
They were told by the officers to contact Leicestershire County Council, who have responsibility for the lights, to make their concerns known.
And Insp Gorman said Melton officers were now doing more to publicise where they have been patrolling, through social media, to show that there is a police presence in the town.
A newsletter is also to be circulated to residents to highlight crimes issues and advise people on how to protect property.
Insp Gorman urged people at the meeting to do as much as they could to secure vehicles, preferably using a steering lock, and not leaving valuables on display.
At the end of the meeting, Insp Gorman told the meeting: “Clearly passions are running high and everyone is upset.
“I don’t have all the answers but I will take your feelings and comments back with me and see what we can do differently.
“I really want to make the community safer here and please work with us to achieve that.
“This is possibly the start of something good - the community coming together to fight back against criminality.
“Let’s work together so something postive can come out of this meeting.”
Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan wrote to say he was unable to attend the meeting and his absence was criticised by two people at the meeting, who said he should have attended and spoken directly to people because of the seriousness of the issue.
He sent a speech which was read out by borough councillor Alan Pearson.
It said: “Over the last few weeks and months there has been a lot of concern expressed to me about the increase in crime in Melton.
“I have raised this with Leicestershire Police who have assured me their officers are working extremely hard to catch those responsible and keep our town safe.
“I know there are some specific incidents that have really worried residents – the shooting of a gun which caused damage to a front door, a stabbing, and an assault on a woman out running, as well as repeated burglaries of some of our local businesses.
“I have asked the Police for an update on these crimes and I hope the culprits can be caught as soon as possible and brought to justice. This is not what we want to see in Melton and we must stamp it out.
“If there are particular cases you would like me to follow up with the police please do contact my office.”
Sir Alan discussed his concerns about crime in Melton this morning when he met with Sgt Wakelam in the town.