Residents feel they have been ‘abandoned by police’ after seeing the Ortons become ‘lawless at night’ according to a parish councillor who herself has been hit by crooks.
Julie Howell, from Orton Parish Council said residents were living in fear of car crime and anti-social behaviour in the area - and police were not dealing with the situation.
She said she was angry and irritated after she fell victim to the crooks in the early hours of Tuesday morning. She was woken by her neighbours at 5am to find her car boot and driver’s door open after the thieves struck - although fortunately she said nothing of value was stolen.
Despite city councillors raising concerns after dozens of cars have been broken into in recent months, a spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said that due to resource issues they were only able to ‘monitor the situation.’
Julie said residents were now not bothering to report crimes to police.
She said: “I find this response from Cambridgeshire Police extremely disappointing. So-called ‘vehicle crime’ is still a crime against a person, and residents who have experienced it tell me it feels just as upsetting and violating as a house burglary or any other type of robbery. I would ask Cambridgeshire Police to consider how it feels to lie in bed at night knowing criminals are active in your street and the police’s only response is ‘we’ll monitor the situation’. This isn’t good enough.
“The police have also failed to give residents adequate guidance on how to protect their property and their vehicles. For example, some thieves are using remote key-reading devices to open car doors that may be foiled if residents keep their car keys in a metal box inside their homes. But the police aren’t telling residents this.
“The message about ‘not keeping valuables in your car’ is utterly pointless when the thieves involved in these particular crimes are willing to take their chances and ransack a vehicle for loose change.
“We need to be advised to remove absolutely everything from our cars each night to avoid loss of possessions.
“The pattern we are experiencing in Orton is of thieves removing everything they find from the vehicle, then later throwing anything they don’t wish to keep into people’s front gardens.
“The police have also failed to issue guidance to disabled and older people who rely on their cars but who cannot remove all personal items every night because they don’t have the physical capacity to do so.”
According to www.police.uk in November there were 36 vehicle crimes reported to Cambridgeshire police in the Ortons - compared to just 15 in November 2016.
The website reveals that in most of the incidents in the Ortons, police had been unable to identify suspects, and the investigation had been concluded.
Cllr Kim Aitken, who represents the Orton Waterville ward, said she herself had also been the victim of crime. She said: “I live in Orton Waterville and on one occasion my own car was broken into and a coat stolen. On another occasion, early one morning, I found two bags with the contents over the floor which I took directly to Thorpe Wood Police Station.”
She added: “The residents in the Orton have completely lost faith in the police.”
North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara called for more action to be taken to crack down on the problem.
He said: “I appreciate that the police have limited resources, but they need to deal with these regular offences as otherwise the criminals will carry on with their activities, safe in the knowledge that they can get away without being caught.”
Anyone with information about any of the thefts is asked to call Cambridgeshire police on 101, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Orton Waterville councillor Gavin Elsey said he had been meeting with members of Cambridgeshire police to discuss the issue. He said he was aware the problem stretched further than just the Ortons - and said he was aware police had issues with resources.
He said: “I have spent five hours in meetings with the PCSOs and the Southern Sector sergeant Kirsty Hills over the Christmas period, and I have a meeting booked to meet with the Police and Crime Commissioner to discuss ongoing issues.
“There are issues especially relating to theft from vehicles, but it isn’t restricted to Orton - it’s happening along the Oundle Road corridor.
“Am I happy? No, but I know how stretched the police are, and whilst I want this cleared up ASAP, I do accept there are crimes which necessarily take priority.
“I am meeting (Police and Crime Commissioner) Jason Ablewhite to discuss a way forward.”
Mr Ablewhite said: “I am aware of the concerns of residents living in the Ortons and will be meeting with Councillor Elsey to discuss how we can best deal with these issues in the very near future. I would like to reassure people that the police will continue to monitor the situation and remind people to ensure they take measures to keep their vehicles secure.
“The Constabulary recently signed off a new local policing model which will go some way to increasing resources on the frontline. However at this time of unprecedented demand for the service the police do have to make difficult decisions and respond to more serious crimes where people are at significant risk of threat or harm.”.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said while they understood the frustrations of residents in Orton, their resource situation meant they had to prioritise ‘our most serious offenders.’
The spokesman also offered advice on how to reduce the chance of becoming a victim of vehicle crime and said: “We understand the frustrations of people living in the area in relation to these offences, the majority of which are vehicle crimes.
“At a time when demand for our services has never been higher, we have to make some difficult decisions about where we allocate our resources.
“ Concentrating on our most serious offenders, and those most at risk. That said, we continue to monitor this situation and follow up any viable lines of enquiry in relation to these offences.
“In the meantime we would urge people to ensure their vehicles are secure and no valuables are left in unattended vehicles.
“Advice on vehicle security can be found on our website: https://www.cambs.police.uk/A-Z/Vehicle-security
“If anyone has information in relation to these incidents we would ask them to contact us on 101 or via online reporting.”
However, on Monday night Peterborough police tweeted ‘high visibility’ patrols were being conducted in the Orton Northgate and Orton Southgate areas following reports of anti-social behaviour, including stone throwing from residents.