POLICE will no longer send an officer out to nearly all instances of shoplifting.
As exclusively reported in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday officers will now only be sent out if more than £100 worth of items are stolen.
The shock announcement was made as Hungerford’s former police station goes up for sale, and as the neighbourhood team reported five instances of shoplifting in the town in the past month alone.
Sergeant Holly Nicholls, standing in for the local team’s Inspector Warren McKeown, dropped the bombshell at a meeting of Hungerford Town Council on Monday night.
She revealed that, in a “new delivery model”, complaints will be dealt with under a triage system and said: “For example, we wouldn’t necessarily deal with shopliftings of less than £100 now” – in other words, nearly all of them.
She added: “Our main priorities are violence against the person, burglaries, theft from motor vehicles and so on.”
Town councillor Carolann Farrell asked: “So, less than £100 and you won’t be coming out to it?”
Sgt Nicholls replied: “Yes.
“We won’t be making arrests all the time and taking it through the courts – it’s not practical.”
She said that the district council would be encouraged to deal with some issues, such as ongoing disputes between neighbours, and added: “We will be working more closely with the council to deal with some things; it will be much quicker and more flexible.
“In these times of austerity we need to be more cost effective.”
Asked how shopkeepers would deal with thieves in future, Sgt Nicholls said they could be given a form to fill in and hand to police.
Although the town police station is closed, Sgt Nicholls said some officers would be based at the new tri-service fire station.
But she added: “Hungerford is away from the main hub of the command district so it’s felt that officers should start their tour of duty from Newbury to better manage their time and allocate where they need to be going.
“But there will very much be a visible presence with no reduction in the number of officers.”
Thames Valley Police had not responded to a request for more details on the triage system as this newspaper went to press.
n WHAT do you think of the new strategy? Send your views to john.garvey@newburynews. co.uk or telephone reporter John Garvey on (01635) 564 528.