Residents of The Avenue and Collingwood Road in Goring were left ‘living in fear’ last year after a spate of vandalism and abuse lasting 18 months.In a community meeting in November, a group of residents called on the police to do more to combat the youths – a rallying cry which appears to have had the desired effect.
Jackie Smith, 64, who lives in The Avenue, took a prominent role in galvanising the resistance. She was full of praise for the police’s response and said the group has dispersed since the meeting.
“On meeting the police it was obvious to me that the calls we made, where our crimes were recorded and then filed, had not got to the front line of policing,” said the former major crimes detective.
“But once the sergeant and his team, including PCSO’s, knew of our plight they went into action.”
Jackie said patrols and officers on the streets became a regular occurence, with police vehicles parked where the gang used to meet every night.
Her ill neighbour, who had been targeted by the gang running along her rooftops and vandalising her car, was visited regularly and direct email addresses were given to residents to bypass longer communication channels.
She said some neighbours were given, or sold at cost price, personal attack alarms and the suspected perpetrators were visited by officers.
“We felt we knew the faces of our police officers, instead of corporate answers,” she said.
“The conclusion after all of this heartache is that visible policing works. It doesn’t have to be in the same spot every time but a police presence works and once you know a name or face, you feel like you are dealing with real people and not call centres.”
Prevention Sergeant Craig Burgess was one of the police officers who attended the community meeting on November 7, which was dramatically gatecrashed by members of the gang.
He confirmed police had been more pro-active within the community since that evening.
“We are aware of reports of vandalism in the Goring area posted on social media some months ago, however the full extent of the issue was unknown perhaps due to under-reporting,” he said.
“In response to this, we increased patrols in the area and engaged with the community, and thankfully no further issues have been reported.
“We always endeavour to respond to people’s concerns and we would encourage anyone with issues to contact us.”
Castle ward councillor Steve Wills agreed the police response had quietened the gang, but was guarded with his optimism.
He said: “I think that once some parents became aware of the problem they had a few words with the youths and this helped. I also believe the winter nights and the cold weather also played a part. We will know if all is well once the warmer weather and lighter nights arrive. Fingers crossed.”