Concern grows over Axe Valley policing levels

Midnight intruder alert went unanswered because no officers were available to attend

CONCERN is growing that police manpower cuts in the Axe Valley are leaving the door open for thieves.

In two recent incidents no officer was available to respond to reports of suspected criminal activity.

The latest happened at around midnight on Friday when officers were asked to investigate a suspicious person seen loitering near business premises at Seaton Junction.

Police have admitted they simply did not have anyone available to attend.

Keith Sweetland, owner of SAK haulage, operates on the site alongside NAS repairs, run by Neil Sampson.

He said: “On Friday Neil drove by about 11.30pm and saw a red van parked outside and called the police to report it.

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“But the police said they had no one in the area , although Neil had come from Seaton and seen a policeman there getting into a car.”

Mr Sweetland said in a previous incident intruders had climbed their gates but triggered the security lights and fled empty handed.

They had since installed some �3,000 of extra lights and CCTV cameras and the police had told them that if they saw anything suspicious they should call them and not interfere.

“But next time it happens we will because they don’t do anything,” he said.

“I checked the CCTV and the man with the van had been there for an hour. I don’t know what he was doing he kept coming back with a torch and going off again but nothing was taken.”

A police spokesman tod The Herald they had received a call about a man loitering with intent at around 12.15 but had no resource available to attend immediately. As no further calls were received the log was later closed.

The spokesman said current staffing levels were a problem but he stressed that pubic safety would not be compromised and they would endeavour to respond to all calls where they were able to.

He said that if the man had been seen actually breaking in the incident would have been given a higher priority.

“In that case we would drop everything to attend,” he said.

“But this was a call about a suspicious red van with a man standing beside it and was assessed as non immediate.

“But if we had had someone in the area we would have gone.”

In a similar incident last month Greg Huntley, of St Andrews drive, Axminster, called police in the early hours to report a burglar alarm was ringing nearby – but no one came.

He said they later rang him back to check if it was still sounding as they were too short staffed to come themselves.

Mr Huntley said he was “disgusted” at the level of police cover.

He Told The Herald at the time: “I know this was 3am but surely this is a 24hour service, not nine to five?

“I can’t remember reading on my council tax bill it was a part-time service.”