DESPERATE traders in Birstall claim that Kirklees Police have left them effectively lawless, after the latest spate of five more attempted and actual break-ins in the past week.
Chamber of Commerce vice-chairman David Exley claimed it is only a matter of time before people take the law into their own hands – because he says a gang of eight suspected criminals have been identified and reported to police, without a single arrest being made.
“The police tell us our CCTV evidence isn’t good enough, even though people are recognising the culprits via their build and clothes,” he said.
“We see enough of them. I’ve got pictures of five of them trying to break in directly across the road from me” (pictured, top).
“They could be questioned, their clothes examined – something at least to disrupt them – because we can see these same suspects wandering the streets in the early hours.”
Mr Exley said Kirklees Police’s Community Inspector Dorian James had promised to increase patrols until 3am – but that the gang, who he says come from Cambridge Road, Fieldhead, the town centre and Drighlington, operate routinely around 3.30-4am.
The businesses attacked this week, generally just by trying to kick the doors in, were Seaspray Fisheries on Low Lane, Cabello Hair on Union Street, Shapers and Jay Murphy hair salons on Nelson Street and The Filling Station cafe on Leeds Road.
Some just suffered damage, although in two separate raids, Seaspray has had a day’s takings stolen, plus two charity boxes.
The owner of Cabello’s had an empty till taken – it was found down the road, smashed beyond repair.
Mr Exley said that in one of this week’s incidents, a police officer said they wouldn’t even bother checking CCTV images of the suspects “because it won’t do any good”.
When the owner of Shapers Hair Salon reported to police that he had a clear bootprint on his battered door, he was reportedly told that the appropriate officer was on holiday “but we’ll see if SOCO (scene of crimes officers) can find time”.
“He couldn’t believe what he was being told,” said Mr Exley. “But I can – most of the law-abiding people of Birstall can, because it seems the police just don’t want to know.”
He added: “The leader of these thugs is the same young man who has been heard boasting of his part in two muggings in town earlier in the year. We’ve given the police his name and address but if they have even bothered questioning him, they haven’t told us.
“People are pretty sure the violent robbery at the shop on Intake Lane last week was down to the same gang.”
He accused Insp James of adding insult to injury ahead of a planned meeting with the town centre traders and local tenants’ and residents’ association last night (Thursday).
“He seemingly can’t be bothered attending himself and was going to send a sergeant with responsibility for Birstall,” said Mr Exley. “We’ve now been told that officer isn’t available and they are sending a sergeant from another area. I’m not sure how they’re supposed to be able to help. I guess we’ll see, but judging by the complete absence of the police taking this crimewave seriously so far, I’m not hopeful.”
He added: “I think it’s only a matter of time before someone gets a good kicking, because people are getting to the end of their tether.
“But it would probably do more harm than good. It would then be “the poor lad” – and you can be sure the real victim, who the police have repeatedly failed, would find themselves in a police cell fast enough.”
But Insp James insisted the criminal activity is being taken seriously and investigations are being thoroughly pursued.
As well as additional patrols being introduced, Insp James said: “Enquiries including CCTV and forensic examinations have been conducted and investigations are ongoing. CSI investigators have recovered partial footprints and enquiries are ongoing to identify the suspects involved and to examine any potential links to the earlier offences.”
Of the robbery and theft earlier in the year in Middlegate, he added that a suspect was arrested in connection with both incidents but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
He warned people not to resort to vigilante tactics. “We would strongly urge residents and members of the public not to take the law into their own hands as they could put themselves or others at risk and could divert police and other emergency services from critical matters.
“A sergeant from Batley NPT will be attending a meeting with the Birstall Chamber of Trade on Thursday evening (December 6) to discuss matters which have been raised on crime in the local area.
“Due to the number of incidents which have happened over the past couple of weeks, there have been NPT officers and PCSOs conducting extended patrols in the area, which are ongoing.
“There are also additional resources from outside the Kirklees District carrying out patrols in peak times, following the initial incidents in November and also this week in response to the more recent offences, to ensure that there is visible policing presence to reassure the community and its residents and deter offences.”