PCSO Lee Bremner addressed Hungerford Town Council meeting on Monday 5 March and spoke about the 18 incidents in February all of which involved thefts or attempted thefts of tools from vans.
She commented that the criminals in these cases seem well-organised and experienced. Even after a police car was sent to Hungerford, further thefts nearby shortly afterwards were reported. Different cars were used, at least one with false number plates. Cul-de-sacs, normally shunned by those seeking a quick getaway, had been the scene of several incidents.
PCSO Bremner said that the matter was being taken very seriously. Patrol cars has been patrolling Hungerford after dark, security leaflets had been delivered to possible victims and that the investigation was being co-ordinated with police in Wiltshire, where other similar crimes had been reported. There had been no such incidents since 22 February, so it was hoped that the spate was now at an end although the investigation was still very much ongoing. Anyone who has such tools was advised to mark them (see below), remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.
PCSO Bremner also told the meeting that arrests had been made following the burglary in Hungerford in January but nobody has been charged so the investigation is still ongoing.
How to Protect Your Property from Theft
Most items are stolen to be re-sold. Anything that can be done to make them less valuable is therefore worth considering. The best thing is obviously to have nothing in your van to steal, but PCSO Bremner admitted that is often impractical to unload tools every night. None the less, they are obviously more vulnerable there than in your house. What can be done?
She suggested that one simple and effective method of preventing theft was by using a bright gloss paint to write your postcode and company name on each tool. She cited an example of someone in the area who had followed this advice after he’d lost most of his stuff: a year later, another break in happened but as all the replacement items were visibly marked, nothing was taken as it was presumably obvious to the criminals that re-selling them would have been far harder.
This tactic is clearly a disadvantage if you’re planning to sell your tools honestly yourself but PCSO Bremner suggested that, in her experience, most tradespeople used their gear until it packed up or was of virtually no value so this problem wouldn’t arise.
Although the paint can be removed, visible traces usually remain. The thief may or may not know this or may have a buyer who will not be worried about such details (though many would be). There’s also the question of what happens if the goods are recovered and the police have no way of knowing to whom they belong. A largely deleted postcode or name, though it might be suggestive of theft for a purchaser, may not be sufficient evidence of ownership. For valuable items – which are for many people the difference between being able to work and not – it pays to have a belt-and-braces approach.
Craig from Wyse Locksmiths recommends the invisible marking product Selecta DNA. He uses it on his own tools and can supply kits for your Home or Tools Kit for a discounted price of £45 each. Each kit covers up to 50 individual items. As this in invisible it won’t deter the theft but will make identification swift and certain. He is also happy to assess your door and window locks and other aspects of domestic and commercial security.
Sheds are also a place where tools and other valuable items can be stored. Some tradesmen in the Hungerford area have also had success with protecting their sheds and vans with a loud siren that goes off when an intruder tries to force the door.
Contacting the Police
It is important to notify the police about any suspected criminal activity as it helps them piece together a jigsaw puzzle of evidence.
Always call 999 in an emergency ie when a crime is being committed, there’s a risk of injury, or there’s a risk of serious damage to property. If it isn’t an emergency but a quick response is needed, call 101. Or you can report incidents to TVP on line via their website www.thamesvalley.police.uk.
The Neighbourhood Policing Team can also be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The email box is checked daily so even if the local team are off, colleagues can review messages in case a prompt response is required.
Talk to the Police in Hungerford
The recently-introduced police visits to Hungerford on the third Wednesday of each month between the PO sorting office and the Tesco car park from 10am to 1pm on the third Wednesday of every month have proved so popular that a further one has been added: at the Wyevale Garden Centre on the A4 from 12 noon to 4pm on the first Tuesday of every month, starting 3 April.
These sessions provide an opportunity for anyone to meet with local police representatives and discuss any specific or general concerns.
There is also a letterbox on the wall to the right of the front door at the Tri Services Station. This will not be checked daily but can receive written correspondence. Found property should not be left here. Found property can be notified to the police via 101 and details recorded. If the police need to take possession of the items arrangements can be made.
(Please also click here for a general article created by Penny Post about the current policing arrangements in and around Hungerford.)
Neighbourhood Watch in Hungerford
Neighbourhood Watch has proved to be an effective method of reducing crimes such as criminal damage, burglaries, theft from motor vehicles and anti-social behaviour. Members are less likely to be a victim of crime if they and their neighbours are made aware of local problems by receiving up to date information on local incidents and crime prevention tips from the Police.
To find out how to get involved with Neighbourhood Watch in Hungerford please click here.