COUNCILLORS launched a scathing attack on Staffordshire Police at a meeting on Monday after vandals ripped apart the football changing room used by two town teams.
Moorlands commander, Chief Inspector Mark Thorley, hit back at the claims policing was ‘non-existent’ in Cheadle, saying antisocial behaviour in the town had been reduced since a spate of problems late last year.
Cllr Alan Bates requested a debate on policing at Tean Road recreation ground after vandals targeted the football changing rooms at the rec during the off-season period.
The youths smashed windows, ripped down roofing, kicked in doors and smashed apart an interior stud wall before trashing furnishings and leaving obscene graffiti, litter, beer cans and drug paraphernalia in the building.
They also managed to get two leather settees into the changing rooms.
Repeated attempts to secure the building had failed and the wrecking spree was discovered last month by officials preparing for the new football season.
Cllr Bates told the meeting: “The policing at the recreation ground is basically non-existent.You get in touch with the police and if they turn up absolutely nothing is done.
“The police turned up that day – one policeman and one PCSO, it was a record turn-out.
“They ambled across and as they went across the grass a load of youths came out of the windows and ran off.
“The police carried on ambling and didn’t follow them. They had a look inside and the action they took was to go into the office and explain to the clerk that she should’ve had the repairs done sooner to stop the children going in. That was it.
“As far as I know nobody went across to McColls and surely there would be some record of two settees being carried across the road.
“I couldn’t get local figures, but national figures state that if a crime is reported about 10 per cent of those crimes are actually dealt with. What it means is that if you commit a crime, you’ve got a 90 per cent chance that you’re not going to get caught.”
His words were echoed by Cllr Peter Jackson, who is a member of the Police and Crime Panel which scrutinises the work of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Matthew Ellis.
He lambasted both the PCC and Chief Constable at Staffordshire Police, Gareth Morgan, saying they had promised visible neighbourhood policing, but had failed to deliver.
Cllr Jackson also cited an incident at a nursery in the town where vandals had broken toys, thrown bikes onto the roof and sprayed obscene graffiti on doors and walls, yet staff were told to take photographs and did not receive a visit from officers.
He said: “Last year at PCCs behest, we recommended the appointment of Gareth Morgan who made a massive commitment to neighbourhood policing.
He was committed to seeing police officers on the street and reassuring communities.
“A few months ago it was announced there would be changes to the police force, which were wholeheartedly supported by the PCC.
“We were worried about those changes in this council and the local inspector came along to tell us how it would make things better.
“We’re in the situation in the last few weeks where I’ve heard all sorts of tales around the town.
“We all know that there’s a group of young people, including some in their later teens, going round Cheadle causing problems and issues. They don’t care because there’s nobody there to deal with them.
“The police are not on the streets of Cheadle, you don’t see them. They don’t seem to be aware of the problems that Cheadle have got.
“When you talk about the police people say ‘huh, what do you expect? They are a waste of time.’
“When you talk about local neighbourhood policing for this community, this community now thinks policing is a joke.”
Councillors agreed to write to Staffordshire Police asking for stronger action and to invite a representative to the next meeting of committees in October.
Some members demanded culprits should be ‘named and shamed’ on social media with suggestions letters be written to the parents of young people suspected of antisocial behaviour.
Chief Inspector Mark Thorley, commander for the Staffordshire Moorlands neighbourhood policing team, was not at the meeting, but in a statement to the Times and Echo said: “ASB in Cheadle had reduced consistently from the issues experienced in October and November 2017, since December ASB in Cheadle has been below average levels and remained there until the summer months when a seasonal increase can be seen in line with lighter nights and summer holidays.
“With regard to the recent incidents on Tean Rd Recreation ground, a no longer used football changing room had been left insecure for some time which had become a magnet for ASB.
“The local council have responsibility for this building and so were made aware and asked to make it secure in order to remove the attraction and in consequence the incidents of ASB it was leading to.
“On several occasions officers have found children in this old building and returned them to their parents, when circumstances support it referrals have then been made to social services so the current and future welfare of the children can be assessed.
“Officers were recently able to respond quickly to reports of an off road motorcycle on the rec which led to the bike being seized and not returned. The rider of the bike is to enter into an acceptable behaviour contract (ABC) to address his future behaviour.
“As I explained to the town council earlier this year, neighbourhood policing has been increased in the Moorlands by 13 officers, these are spread out across all three locations evenly.
“At Cheadle there are NPT (Neighbourhood Policing Team) Police officers stationed there from 7am to midnight, working until 3am on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
“I have not been made aware of specific incidents other than those I have commented on but I am happy for the local sergeant to attend the next meeting and provide an update on policing in Cheadle.
“Local Moorlands officers and officer from the northern response hub, who also work from a Cheadle deployment location 24 hrs a day, work hard to support the community and bring offenders to justice.
“Recently this hard work had led to several repeat offenders for ASB being given ABC’s to address future behaviour, two of these have then been progressed to community protection notice warnings which if not adhered to will become a notice which is a criminal offence to breach.
“The Moorlands shows an overall reduction in crime and ASB has fallen recently, we work hard in often challenging circumstances to make the Moorlands a safer place to live work and visit.”
Later in the meeting, the council approved payment for work to secure the changing rooms at a cost of £595 +VAT.
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