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Installation of $48,000 worth of anti-theft security upgrades at an American housing area in Thetford has been delayed.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe approved a request by RAF Lakenheath’s housing office for the money to help secure the 120-home neighborhood, following a security survey conducted by British police in October 2005. Since then, costly bids from contractors to install the upgrades forced the housing office to re-evaluate the project and look for cost-cutting measures.

Housing officials look to remedy these issues with property owners Circle Anglia housing group, according to Ian Lancaster, a housing official in charge of Thetford housing.

Lancaster said Circle Anglia currently is soliciting new bids for the upgrades, which include new garage door locks and higher fences around homes. To keep would-be thieves out of their garages, residents now park their vehicles inches from their garage doors and jam screwdrivers or bolts into the tracks of garage doors to prevent them from being swung open.

Residents reported 14 thefts from vehicles and homes to the 48th Security Forces Squadron from December 2005 to December 2006. However, not all thefts are reported, security forces officials said.

The neighborhood is located one-half mile from Abbey Estates, a large British public housing project, which residents assume has been the source of vehicle and home burglaries in the past. Theft became such a problem that residents nicknamed the neighborhood, “Theftford.”

In April, six months after the British review recommended additional security measures, some Thetford residents said they don’t bother reporting theft, because they see nothing happen in response to the incidents.

On the contrary, Lancaster said that housing officials work closely with local authorities to educate residents on safeguarding their belongings. Residents are also given one-hour briefings upon moving into their new homes, which include information on security.

Master Sgt. Tracy Brookens, the town mayor whose constituency covers the neighborhood, said he hasn’t heard of any thefts recently, but feels that low crime rates shouldn’t slow down the project’s completion.

“People are concerned. They’re always asking me when it’s going to happen,” he said.

One thing that Brookens would like to see is 8-foot fences built to replace the 2½-foot-high ones currently surrounding many of the homes.

“It’s just for peace of mind if nothing else,” he said.

Brookens attended a town mayors’ meeting earlier this month to check the status of the project.

“They’re actually working out the issue,” he said following the meeting. “It should kick off by spring.”

Public affairs officials prohibited Stars and Stripes from attending the meeting.

The project’s delay might actually end up saving the Air Force from paying for one fence, because a new hotel complex planned behind the houses might include a fence along its boundary, Lancaster said.

“By delaying our project we could reduce the cost to us and achieve the same goal,” said Lancaster, who plans to meet with hotel developers.

A spokeswoman for Circle Anglia didn’t want to comment on this project in its early stages.

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