POLICE have defended the manner in which they dealt with a 999 call after a village shop was targeted at least three times in one day by shoplifters who threatened staff.
The incidents happened on Sunday, August 26 at the village stores in Charmouth with shop manager Maria Tritton saying they were “totally devastated” by the amount of goods stolen whilst travellers were parked in the village.
Police have confirmed that two arrests were made and the culprits had been released with a caution.
But parish councillors in the village are unhappy with the level of response and have called for the police to attend the next annual parish meeting to discuss crime prevention in the village.
After Mrs Tritton had highlighted the incident on social media, a number of Charmouth people offered to camp outside the shop to prevent the thieves returning again.
Parish council chairman Peter Noel wrote personal letters to the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset expressing his concern about how the incidents were handled.
Speaking at last week’s meeting of Charmouth Parish Council, Councillor Noel said: “I was very disappointed with the way the events were handled around the travellers in the village. I have had a letter today from the local police inspector and this is something we need to think about what we can possibly do.
“The shops I know are talking about having some form of alarm system, where they can contact each other if something comes up and I think the caravan sites are happy to get involved in that as well.
“May be we should invite the police to come along to the next annual parish meeting to give their two penn’orth of things because we haven’t seen anybody.
“They used to come to our meetings and report on things. They need to come an communicate with us. Most people you talk to in the public they think that if the police get involved they tend to arrest the wrong people because someone tried to help.
“We do need to get a grip on this. It’s silly really. It doesn’t do them any favours. This is my personal view.”
Councillor Noel said the police were called at 8.03pm on the day and responded by 8.23pm. But he claimed they knew about problems at Wood Farm in the morning and he was sure they must have had other calls, although he accepted this was conjecture.
Responding to a request from LymeOnline for a statement, West Dorset Neighbourhood Inspector Neil Wood said: “We would like to reassure the community of Charmouth that there was a proportionate policing response when we dealt with a report of shoplifting at Charmouth Stores at 8.03pm on Sunday, August 26 2018.
“Officers arrived a short time later at 8.26pm and arrested two men, aged 36 and 32, on suspicion of shoplifting. Contrary to speculation within the community, I can confirm that both men were taken to custody at Weymouth police station and interviewed by officers. They were dealt with and received a caution for the offences.
“With regard to unauthorised traveller encampments it is important to stress that it is the responsibility of the landowner to take the lead on managing these in the first instance – whether this is the local authority or a private landowner. Dorset Police is responsible for crime-related issues and community engagement between the settled and travelling community.
“I am confident that a reasonable policing response was carried out in relation to the encampment set up in August.
“Over the next few weeks I have asked the Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) to make contact with the parish council so we can look at ways to improve our opportunities for two-way dialogue, so when situations such as these occur residents can be updated with the correct information at the earliest opportunity.
“I have also asked the NPT to make contact with local traders to discuss crime prevention matters and the introduction of a Shop Watch scheme in the area.”
Charmouth Stores’ owner Phil Tritton commented: “Charmouth Traders are liaising with the parish council to try and set up an alert scheme so that we can spread the word quickly around the village if there are travellers in the village, but also regarding shoplifters and counterfeit notes.
“I will be meeting with Councillor Paul Oatway shortly to see if we can come up with a satisfactory solution that also includes the local police.”