'999 calls unheeded,' say 'petrified' family
May 28 2007:
Bookham faces increasing vandalism and violent yobbery, say some residents, despite police figures which show a decline in crime. And they complain that their calls to the police are going unheeded.
The May 14 meeting of the local police panel (see below) heard how one man and his young family were terrorised last weekend by a stone-throwing gang.
Two nights earlier some members of a gang collected ballast from the track to throw at appealing targets. These included this family's windows, which are not far from Bookham station. 'My two young childen were petrified,' said the resident, who didn't want to be named for fear of reprisals.
He spoke of 'a continual flow of youths' disrupting his family's peace: 'They're smashing things up, throwing things around and damaging my house.'
The disturbance can happen on any night of the week but is particularly bad at weekends and at its worst between 10pm and midnight.
On that Saturday night, this resident told the meeting, he had phoned 999 but Surrey Police failed to arrive. In desperation he phoned British Transport Police (BTP), who told him this was probably a matter for Surrey Police.
He said he told BTP, 'These are your passengers, on your trains, travelling on your track, using your ballast to throw at my windows, and you say it's not a matter for you?'
Surrey County Councillor and Police Authority chairman Jim Smith, who was at the meeting, said there were 'demarcation issues' that BTP and Surrey police would have to address.
Bookham and Fetcham Neighbourhood Specialist Officer PC John Hench said there had been a serious incident on that night and apologised for Surrey Police's failure to respond. He agreed to make it the police's number one priority for the next two months.
The resident, who works in Epsom, told the Bugle
that the latest incident was merely the worst of a series. Gangs of 15 or so frequently gather outside his house. The phone box outside Photo-Me International is a favourite target. 'It could be any night of the week, but especially Fridays and Saturdays.
'They'll pick up anything, stones or lumps of wood, to use as weapons,' he said. He doesn't think it's the same gang every time. "It could be different people," he said.
This family and other residents also complain that Bookham industrial estate and the station car park are used to race motor-and quad-bikes.
These episodes add to recent cases of vandalism and other allegedly drink-related crimes in Bookham and Fetcham. On the same weekend as the attack on the family near the station, the plate-glass window of outfitters David Fuller in Church Street was smashed (above right). Police also report a spate of burglaries in the district: 'Mole Valley has been targeted,' says PC Hench. He also reported an attempted robbery at the Lloyds TSB cashpoint at the 'squareabout' (full report below)
The wave of yobbery adds to concerns, reported in the Bugle
, that police statistics seriously under-rate the level of crime and disorder. In the late morning of Saturday May 26, for example, the window of a car parked in the Garstons was broken. A witness told the car-owner he saw children throwing stones nearby at around the same time. The car owner didn't report the crime to police because he saw no point in doing so. If others have the same attitude, this suggests that police incident figures don't reflect the amount of vandalism, petty crime, and intimidatory behaviour that's really happening.
As the Bugle reported last year
, there is also widespread, if muted, concern about the accuracy of traffic accident statistics, also collected by the police. It seems unlikely that Surrey is immune from the tendency to produce improving figures which show it meeting its casualty targets.
But the Garstons incident raises other questions. It's widely assumed, for example, that much of the mindless yobbery local people are subjected to is drink related. The breaking of a car window before lunchtime in broad daylight on a Saturday morning doesn't bear this out.
If, however, the Garstons incident is away from the usual run and most petty crime is
drink related, then surely it's time to ask whether the right of supermarkets and others to sell alcohol to whoever they like shouldn't take second place to the rights of ordinary people to peace and quiet.
The Bookham Police Panel
meets on the first Monday of every other month at 7:45pm in The Pastoral Centre, St Nicholas' Church, Bookham.
Police officers also hold local surgeries at Bookham's Barn Hall on some Fridays from 10:15 am and at Fetcham on some Saturdays in the Reading Rooms, Cobham Road, from 10:00. Check the neighbourhood police website for details
attends and reports these meetings but will not publish the names of those raising concerns with the police unless they expressly wish it.