AN “epidemic” of van break-ins, thefts from outbuildings, antisocial behaviour and drugs is hitting Fordingbridge it’s been claimed.

Concerns were raised during Fordingbridge Town Council’s annual assembly on Wednesday, June 1 which was attended by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Donna Jones, along with officers from the local neighbourhood policing team.

Burglaries and thefts

Fordingbridge mayor, Cllr Anna Wilson said a big concern was burglaries from outbuildings as well as thefts from work vans adding: “It is every night of the week something goes missing. We don’t know how to cope with it.”

“There has been an epidemic of break-ins to trades people’s vans around the town,” said the mayor describing vehicles being opened up “like a sardine tin”.

Inspector Darren Ord told the meeting the number of non-dwelling burglaries had “dropped massively” and that this was partly down to officers “targeting and patrolling in the right areas”.

However, this was met with a call of “absolute nonsense” from a member of the public. Another said there were increasing reports of these break-ins which were being posted on Facebook.

Another resident questioned whether these crimes were actually being reported to police.

Inspector Ord added: “The figures speak for themselves. They are dropping, I can reassure you.”

The meeting heard that the PCC had met with the NFU insurance company about funding for posts within the police to work on the detection and prevention of outbuilding thefts.

She also explained that the rural police team had increased by nine officers over the last eight or nine months.

Officers, the meeting was told, also work with forces across the border including Wiltshire and Dorset to share intelligence.

Antisocial behaviour concerns 

Another area of concern was antisocial behaviour (ASB) in the town.

The PCC told the meeting an antisocial behaviour fund and task force had been set up as tackling ASB was a priority in her police and crime plan. She explained that if there were certain areas being targeted and if there was support from the police a bid could be put forward by the town council to support an initiative in getting CCTV.

Cllr Wilson, in relation to antisocial behaviour in the town, said it came in “fits and starts” and also highlighted concerns about substance abuse.

Inspector Ord said if people report incidents the policing team can “build a picture of exactly what the issues are” and that the car park at Roundhill had been raised as a “hotspot” for ASB and was attended regularly by officers.

He added: “We are looking at that and looking at other alternatives. We can’t be there 24/7. Some of these things are annoying and antisocial but they are not criminality so we need to work with people like the council with the NFDC [New Forest District Council], to try and look at other opportunities be that around the engineering of that site be it removal of the benches, diversionary things so we can get them somewhere else to go to. It is a bigger problem than just us being there. So short term we do and these guys are there constantly.”

Members of the public also questioned why more was not being done to tackle people smoking drugs and the meeting heard that officers carry out regular stop and searches as well as warrants.

Inspector Ord urged residents to continue to report information to the police while Cllr Wilson reiterated the need for councils to work together.

Cllr Wilson also highlighted long-running concerns over the benches in Roundhill and even suggested that removing them could be trialled as an “experiment” but said the support of the district council would be needed.

“At the moment as much as I appreciate some children need more care and attention than others from you. It is preventing our other children having that free and easy life. ” she added.

One resident said: “Antisocial even on a minor scale if it isn’t challenged they often go onto to actually push the boundaries even more. So surely it is counter-productive to actually wait until they commit a crime and try to nip it in the bud.”

PCC Jones told the meeting that the £250,000 ASB fund was about “tackling the root cause not the symptom”.