POLICE have broken their promise to Hungerford and are locking themselves away in their new tri-service station amid reports of rising crime, it was claimed this week.
There were angry scenes at a meeting of the full town council on Monday night after the neighbourhood team again failed to attend or to send a written report to councillors.
The meeting also heard that ill feeling in the town was stoked recently when a Good Samaritan found a purse containing cash and credit cards and tried to hand it in at the new station, which opened to great fanfare in July.
Officers reportedly failed to answer the bell and, when the man telephoned the switchboard, he was informed he would have to travel to Newbury instead and hand it in there.
At Monday’s meeting, former town mayor Martin Crane said: “No one would come to the door. It’s disgusting.
“If you can’t even contact an officer at this new, so-called police station, what’s going on?
“After the town tragedy, Hungerford was given a solemn promise that it would always have a police presence. That promise has been broken.”
District councillor Paul Hewer (Con, Hungerford) said: “I can’t remember when the police last attended a full council meeting. It’s discourteous.
“I’ve got a list of recent crimes here and no explanation whatsoever.
“I think crime is increasing. It’s mostly petty crime but it’s devastating for the victims.”
Deputy mayor Helen Simpson said: “Break-ins certainly seem to be going up. And members of the public are really concerned about the current level of policing in Hungerford.”
Official police figures show that, overall, crime in Hungerford and the Lambourn Valley rose from 49 reported offences in January to 89 in June.
Meanwhile, the old police station has been closed down and sold off.
The force said in a statement it was “expensive to run and too large for our needs”.
It added that the new tri-station would allow the neighbourhood police team “to continue to deliver the same level of service as before while remaining within the heart of the Hungerford community.”
The neighbourhood team used to regularly attend monthly, full town council meetings and publish a monthly update of crimes, information and witness appeals on the force website.
These were discontinued earlier this year amid a row over media reporting of a new policy to “prioritise” the response to shoplifting offences.
After Monday’s meeting, the former Hungerford fire station commander, Pete Rackham, revealed it was his friend who had found the purse.
He said: “I saw police officers going into the new tri-station so I advised him to hand it in there.
“But when he rang the bell, no one would answer the door, even though they were clearly inside the building.
“He then telephoned and was told he would have to go all the way to Newbury to hand it in.”
Thames Valley Police were asked to comment on the incident but had not responded as this newspaper went to press.
Mr Hewer assured the town council that he will raise his concerns, and theirs, with Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld, and report back.