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Police staffing changes

Re Neighbourhood Watch: On 7 January PC Ann-Marie Owen (ex Neighbourhood Officer for West Ward and more recently North and East) became the interim Neighbourhood Sergeant (Neighbourhood Watch) for Harpenden for the first quarter of the year. She took over this role from Sgt James Twitchett.

After the latest reorganisation the Harpenden Safer Neighbourhoods Team is now understood to consist of:

 North Ward    PC Owen   PCSO Carroll

 East Ward   PC Owen     PCSO Carroll

 South Ward  PC Collins   PCSO Paul Fletcher

 West Ward   PC Mark Smith PCSO Paul Fletcher

 Town Centre  PC Mark Smith PCSO Derek Holloway

PC Mark Smith is a new appointee.

Metal thefts

Metal thefts are an ongoing problem in Harpenden as elsewhere. An indication of this is to be seen on a drain cover on Harpenden Common, near Queen’s Road: a hinged metal bar has been padlocked over the top of the iron cover, presumably to prevent it from being stolen.

Thefts of vehicles from driveways

Two vehicles have recently been stolen from driveways in the Derwent Road area. Police advice is never to leave car keys near your letterbox: thieves are adept at obtaining keys within their reach by ‘pole fishing’. Such crimes may be committed by day or by night, even when the house is occupied.

Anti-social behaviour

During the last two months a group of three to four 14-17 year olds (one is female) have been annoying residents at various locations in the town by knocking on doors, or ringing doorbells, and running away; damaging vehicles; throwing items at cars; aggressive behaviour; sitting on walls; occasionally throwing stones at properties; and on one occasion stringing Christmas lights across a road. When challenged they have been verbally abusive. The Police advice, if nobody’s safety is under threat, is not to challenge them but to call 101 immediately (it’s worth pointing out that whilst 101 is a non-emergency number that does not mean it is a non-urgent number – it should be used for urgent matters that are not emergencies). If anybody’s safety is under threat, or if criminal damage is occurring to your property (not sure why it doesn’t apply to other people’s!), then call 999.

The Police response to this situation has been to increase Police visibility and the success of this response has been noticeable.

Use of the new Library for Police surgeries

It may be of relevance to Harpenden that, in response to funding cuts that are forcing the closure of front counters in police stations, the Metropolitan Police want the public to report crime at ‘access points’ not only in libraries but also in supermarkets, community centres, places of worship, coffee shops and even football stadia.


Scams and the elderly

This is a national issue which will always be with us but which is especially significant around Christmas and New Year. Speaking as Group Convener, and paraphrasing advice from various sources (it’s often long and confusing), the best basic advice would appear to be:

Basic principles: If you didn’t arrange to see this person, or if you did not request this information, back off. If it’s genuine, the problem is theirs to solve, not yours. The difficulty is that older people are often lonely and are disinclined to reject an approach. But this is exactly what criminals exploit.

To be more specific:

Doorstep calls (cold calling): Be wary of opening the door to unexpected strangers (delivery drivers are easily recognised), quickly say ‘no’ to all unknown doorstep sellers or service providers without allowing them to give any details (they may be distracting you while an accomplice breaks in at the rear), ask for ID from meter readers etc. and phone the number they give if in doubt. Always be cautious.

Unsolicited telephone calls: If you have not taken the initiative to make contact with the organisation, or had any kind of involvement with it in the past, ring off. If you think it’s just possible that the call may be genuine, ask for their number so you can ring them back. If they decline (they almost always refuse), ring off. Even if you still want to proceed, and especially if they ask you for ID, ask them for their ID as well: genuine callers will be prepared for this. Finally, when you’ve ended the call dial ‘1471’. You will almost always be told that ‘the caller withheld their number’, and you can be sure you did the right thing.

Online scams (for most of us this means emails): The same principles apply as for phone calls: if the message is not in response to a request you have proactively made or is not from a source (typically a website) that you have chosen to access, or if you suspect the message may not be genuine, delete it and think about it no more.

Exposing scams: One satisfying way of wasting time is to put brief details of what you suspect to be a scam into Google (‘phone call my computer will crash’ or whatever). In most cases you will quickly discover the history of the scam, which can be very satisfying (especially if they phone again thus giving you the pleasure of telling them how their scam works and how long it’s been going on for). You will be led to websites such as:



Don’t hesitate to use them - and tell your friends about them too!

On a very serious point, Google can be  used very effectively to put people’s minds at rest. Your Convener was recently able to put the mind of one elderly resident to rest by confirming the bona fide natures of a market research interviewer and a mobility scooter company. Her mind had become very seriously disturbed over a two-week period, yet it took scarcely a couple of minutes to verify matters online.

Cardboard cutouts

And finally…..South Yorkshire Police have sought to counteract an  11% reduction in the force’s headcount by spending £7,000 on 280 cardboard cutouts of officers. They claim this has decreased crime by up to 50% in some areas. Next time you see a police car screaming through Harpenden High Street check it isn’t being driven by a cardboard cutout.

Alan Jackson


Public Order Working Group


There has been an upsurge in the number of burglaries in the District and the best action people can take is to join Neighbourhood Watch in order to get the most up-to-date information and advice.