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    Local councilor brands ‘endemic’ shoplifting in Central Bedfordshire as ‘looting’

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    By: Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter

    Shoplifting is “endemic” in parts of Central Bedfordshire, a meeting heard, and branded “looting” by one local councillor.

    And one of the county’s MPs is warning “it’s a matter of time before a pedestrian is run into” by an off-road motorbike.

    The issues were highlighted during a discussion around Bedfordshire Police’s annual plan by Central Bedfordshire Council’s newly-formed police and crime advisory panel.

    Conservative South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous told the panel: “Some of the issues which are most apparent are the dangerous and illegal motorcycles.

    “We’ve had one life lost and another young man with life-changing injuries,” he explained. “I don’t think it’s getting the appropriate attention from the police.

    “It’s a matter of time before a pedestrian is run into and there are other serious accidents if not, God forbid, fatalities. That’s extremely concerning.

    “Shop theft is endemic, as well. Pretty scared shop staff often feel isolated and unsupported. A fairer distribution of the increased number of officers across the whole of Bedfordshire is needed now.

    “They’re far too much concentrated on Luton. In time, I’d like a more localised 24/7 response, so those teams aren’t having to travel from Luton or Bedford.”

    Independent Houghton Regis East councillor Pat Hamill, who chairs the panel, said: “I was with some officers last week and we watched about ten off-road bikers go past us.

    “They said ‘don’t worry, we got them on dashcam’. That doesn’t give me the confidence anything will be done about it just because it’s on a vehicle camera. This has to change in the way we’re policed in Central Bedfordshire.

    “You alluded to the shoplifting. I call it looting. We’ve shops in Houghton Regis where they come in daily to shop for nothing.

    “Another couple of guys come in and threaten staff with violence if they don’t allow them to take valued items from the store. This is happening daily, yet Beds Police have failed to react to that so far.”

    Mr Selous replied: “The chief constable has given me his assurance that all community teams will be up to full strength by the end of March and then the establishment will be further increased.

    “This hasn’t been the case for the Leighton Buzzard, Houghton Regis and Dunstable teams recently. I don’t think it’s sufficient, if you look at the population of Central Beds.

    “But it’s a move in the right direction. At the end of the month, there’ll be 1,470 officers in Bedfordshire.”

    Independent Leighton Linslade West councillor Steve Owen mentioned the chief constable and an inspector are due to attend the next panel meeting on May 15th, and suggested: “We should ask them to present their plan and ask what their objectives are for Central Bedfordshire.

    “We can inquire where there are problems and what corrective action is being taken, where they’re making good progress, what the resource picture looks like, and discuss this persuasive idea about a fairer distribution across the area.”

    Councillors agreed to ask in advance whether those issues can be addressed.

    (Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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