IT’S been a busy year for Thatcham’s neighbourhood wardens, including cleaning human faeces off the town’s streets.
No less than 17 cases of human defecation were dealt with by the four-strong team in the last year, along with 1,490 reports of dog fouling.
Senior warden Naomi Mildenhall told town councillors at a meeting on Monday that dog fouling in the town was “an absolute nightmare”, with 176 pieces of dog mess picked up over a two-week period in Piggy Lane (a footpath between Cowslip Crescent and Park Avenue).
She said that the situation was so bad that the wardens were ‘going to throw everything they had’ at the problem in Piggy Lane, including bringing in a dog warden to talk to dog owners.
Miss Mildenhall added that the wardens tried to educate people about toxicariasis, which can cause blindness in children, and that the success of previous campaigns was difficult to gauge.
However, spraying the pooh pink to highlight the proliferation “really got them talking in the playground”.
The efforts to tackle dog fouling were outlined, alongside the 301 cases of graffiti, 340 bags of litter, 327 cases of fly-tipping and 390 fly-posting reports dealt with by the wardens last year.
They also reported 13 cases of criminal damage and referred 26 cases to the police.
“Some of these things are never-ending battles but I think we are on top of them,” she said.
Miss Mildenhall said that their work would have cost council contractors around £17,000 to deal with the fly-tipping, while £2,380 was saved on cleaning up litter in the town.
She added that, while the wardens have no formal powers, their work had led to a fly-tipper who dumped a garage-load of waste in Crookham being fined.
The wardens sifted through the rubbish and found enough evidence for West Berkahire Environmental Health to bring forward a case.
Senior manager of the neighbourhood warden scheme, Andrew Cooch, said the wardens’ greatest strength was that they were seen as the friendly face of the community and not fining or punishing people.
As well as reducing crime and the fear of crime and addressing environmental issues, wardens work to engage with young people in the town.
There are currently 30 junior wardens under their wing and the team visited local schools 36 times last year.
Miss Mildenhall said that the team worked with headteachers to identify youngsters who could benefit from community work and that some of them did not want to leave the organisation.
Thatcham town councillor Dominic Boeck (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham) thanked the wardens for their work in the town. “It’s received very gratefully, I assure you,” he said.
The wardens are employed by Sovereign Housing Association, which joint funds the scheme alongside with West Berkshire Council and Thatcham Town Council.