Rise in theft concerns British police
Stars and Stripes June 25, 2007
BRANDON, England — A newly adapted British police team and RAF Lakenheath security forces are to discuss ideas early this week on how to reduce off-base thefts from the vehicles of U.S. Air Force personnel.
As of June 21, Air Force personnel have been victimized in 53 of the 138 thefts reported this year in the communities of Brandon, Lakenheath, Mildenhall, West Row, Beck Row and Holywell Row.
In the previous six months — June through December 2006 — there were only 36 thefts reported by airmen out of 99 reported incidents in the same area, which has a population of about 33,000.
Satellite navigation systems, MP3 players, cash, CDs, handbags, stereos, speakers and even a case of Gatorade have been reported stolen from vehicles, team members say.
“It could be anything that is not easily available to the offender,” said Police Community Support Officer Jason Thomas.
The increase in this type of crime has caught the interest of British police, said Sgt. Liam Garrard, who is in charge of the Lakenheath Safer Neighborhood Team.
“We think that it’s appropriate at this time to focus our resources on this particular issue,” Garrard said.
The Brandon-based team, created last month as part of a Suffolk Constabulary-wide initiative to put more police presence on the streets, looks to build a stronger partnership with the U.S. security forces during the private meeting.
The high percentage of thefts from U.S. vehicles will be highlighted, as well as other issues in what could turn into a regular meeting, Garrard said.
“There’s a crime prevention message to be given out,” Garrard said. “We haven’t discussed the finer details. We just need to have some joined-up thinking without stepping on each others’ toes.”
Garrard’s four-person team of constables and police community support officers want to use a variety of resources to combat crime. Security forces’ access to airmen is one such resource. Local community security meetings and neighborhood watch teams are others.
“We want to reduce crime in our area and our area is made up of a large section of U.S. personnel that live and work there,” said team member Constable Jono Waller.
Staff Sgt. Alberto Castillo, RAF Lakenheath’s crime prevention officer, hopes that the future meeting will be productive.
“We want to make sure everybody locks their vehicles and doesn’t leave valuables in plain sight,” he said.
Among other things, Waller would like to reinforce crime prevention tips in briefings conducted a few months after newcomers to the base receive their initial security briefing.
Joint “hot spot” patrols are another tool that both forces could use in the future, said Garrard, who added that his team has plans for similar patrols with the Mildenhall Crime Prevention Panel, a civilian volunteer group.