Bike thefts could be children mixed up in county lines drug-dealing

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams
Bike theft a ‘real problem’ in Windsor

The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Thames Valley walked councillors through the crime and policing issues in the Borough in a meeting on Thursday.

Talking at the communities overview and scrutiny panel, PCC Matthew Barber said that although the force has more officers than ever before, there needs to be more recruitment to match the population increase.

A current major concern of Thames Valley Police (TVP) is county lines drug dealing and the impact on children.

“A real concern is around the level of exploitation and the harm caused particularly to young children, both boys and girls,” said Mr Barber.

“Relatively low-level crimes can actually be linked to a wider network. One example is bicycle thefts. That might be young children stealing bikes for £20-30 worth of drugs.

“The gang then sells these on the internet and making vast profits.”

Another concern is the growth in cybercrime in the area.

“It’s probably not something a huge number of your constituents have as a top priority, but actually, it’s such a growing threat, we need to be able to recognise it and equip the force to be able to deal with it,” said Mr Barber.

Cllr Andrew Johnson, leader of the council, stressed the importance of a ‘zero tolerance’ approach on so-called minor crimes, which can include environmental crimes or anti-social behaviour.

Mr Barber agreed it was important to take notice of these, as these are some of the major concerns in the borough.

“We can’t be blind or complacent about the concerns that residents have. The importance of persevering confidence in the force can’t be overstated,” he said.

One such issue is fly-tipping. A pilot has been launched in Oxford to tackle fly-tipping that the Mr Barber hopes will be effective and can be rolled out in other local authorities, such as the Royal Borough.

The pilot involves financing the council to launch its own investigation into fly-tipping.

This is something local authorities deal with, rather than police, but additional funding from elsewhere will help finance prosecutions.

This initial investment will then be supplemented by fines successfully collected from the culprit – going back into the pot to fund future investigations.

Mr Barber also talked about community speedwatches, whereby volunteer groups track the speed of cars using a speed gun.

The volunteers report drivers exceeding the speed limit to the police with the aim of educating drivers to slow down.

Mr Barber said that, by the end of the year, the aim is to have all the community speedwatch groups back up and running. The police have a budget for equipment to facilitate this.

Cllr Jon Davey (WWRA, Clewer & Dedworth West) wanted to know if the police would effectively be taking control of the speedwatches moving forward.

Mr Barber said that oversight of speedwatches by police has been ‘patchy’ and ad hoc, with different levels of support or training in different areas.

He said the aim was to integrate it better and that, moving forward, Thames Valley Police would be taking more responsibility for speedwatches.

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