Worried residents and traders in Clitheroe are demanding more bobbies on the beat to help protect their town that has become a “criminals’ paradise”.
A disturbing spree of crime – including a 30-man brawl – has prompted fears that the borough’s depleted police force presents a “soft” target for crime.
Calls for improved policing come after thieves ram-raided a cash machine at the Spar Shop, in Edisford Road, making off with thousands of pounds.
Around 2-25am on Friday, a JCB digger was driven into the front of the store and used to remove an ATM machine. The offenders made off from the scene undetected, with structural damage caused to the building. The JCB had earlier been stolen from the Slaidburn Road area of Waddington and CCTV cameras in the area had been sprayed out.
Tyres were slashed on a couple of police cars parked outside Clitheroe Police Station prior to the incident, but the police are not connecting this crime to the ram-raid.
The cash machine was later found dumped in a lay-by at the Blacko end of Blacko Bar Road between Roughlee and Blacko.
The theft has sparked calls for the installation of CCTV cameras in the area.
Conservative councillor Sue Hind, who represents Edisford and Low Moor on Ribble Valley Borough Council, said: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but a JCB is pretty hard to miss. It’s very big and very yellow which makes it easy to track on CCTV cameras along Edisford Road, if we had any that is! There is an urgent need to extend CCTV coverage from Clitheroe town centre along Edisford Road, particularly given that Spar appears to have become a high-profile target.”
Coun. Hind went on to say: “The progressive withdrawal of rural policing and the closure of the police front desk in Clitheroe have not helped an increasingly stretched Police Force whose budget is being cut.”
Similar fears have been expressed by Clitheroe traders who say they feel scared locking up their businesses and are appealing to reopen Clitheroe Police Station front desk after it was forced to close due to budget cuts last year.
Glen Britton, manager of Brittons Jewellers, said: “Clitheroe is becoming a target town – a criminals’ paradise – because they know there are hardly any police officers patrolling the streets, especially in the evenings.
“A few weeks ago some of my customers witnessed a horrific brawl where local people were assaulted. By the time the police arrived, the offenders had disappeared. We feel we have no protection and traders are scared to lock up their shops, especially with the darker nights approaching.
“I’ve been called out in the evenings, sometimes close to midnight when the shop alarm goes off, and it’s very frightening to see no officers on the streets. While another businesswoman revealed she’s been forced to increase security in and around her business to deter offenders and questioned if police had lost control of the streets?”
Clitheroe folk also took to social media to share their dismay. One wrote on Facebook: “Is Clitheroe becoming a soft touch for criminals now that the police station is closed? The town used to be a really good and safe place to live. Now, I am not so sure.”
Responding to the concerns, Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The decision to close Clitheroe front counter was taken after a review showed that the number of people who used the service continued to fall. We are always looking at how the public want to report crimes and I’ve made a significant investment into our force control room and online reporting due to increasing demand for these services.
“Clitheroe station itself remains operational and the closure of the front counter service does not change how the area is policed. Members of the public can still contact local officers, engage with local policing teams and gain the help and support they need. In addition to the officers in neighbourhood teams across the Ribble Valley, the police can call on response officers, detectives, specialist units and all the policing resources they may need to respond to incidents wherever they may happen.”
Meanwhile, detectives are continuing to appeal for information following the ram-raid incident. Det. Sgt. Mark Holland said: “We are keen to speak to anyone who can help with our inquiries. Did you see anyone acting suspiciously in the area around the time of the offence? Did you see a JCB digger being driven towards the scene or a vehicle making off from the area at high speed? “Any information, no matter how seemingly insignificant, could prove crucial to our investigation.”
If you can help, contact police on 101 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org log reference 0114 of October 19th.