Calls for improvements to Essex town centre’s security

CALLS have been made to step up security measures in Saffron Walden town centre following a spate of high profile burglaries.

The town has seemingly witnessed a rise in crime affecting shops in recent months. Noticeably, Brooks Designer Dress Agency had �1700 worth of handbags stolen during a break-in on Christmas Eve, while Johnny Briggs and Jenny Briggs suffered a three-minute raid on a busy Saturday night last month, losing over �11,000 worth of designer goods in the process. On top of this two shops have had staff handbags stolen in recent weeks, while there have been incidents of vandalism to shop fronts.

Now calls are being made for drastic improvements to the police presence in the town, as well as its CCTV system.

Nicola Brooks, who owns Brooks Designer Dress Agency in Rose and Crown Walk, said: “Naturally I am being extremely vigilant.

“But what makes me so angry is that the police presence is virtually non-existent, crime is increasing, the public and shopkeepers are asked to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and report it, yet there is no-one to report it to. If they do nothing is done or it is too late.

“If we can’t get more police officers on the beat, can we at least have more CCTV cameras in operation?

“Saffron Walden is becoming a crime hotspot because of its proximity to the M11, so something needs to be done sooner rather than later.

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“The thieves always seem to target the small independent shops, yet we are the ones who are struggling to keep afloat.”

Johnny Briggs, who owns Johnny Briggs and Jenny Briggs in Market Row, said: “I think there needs to be some recognition; that we can no longer assume that things like this happen in Saffron Walden.

“Maybe resources have been put elsewhere in the past because the town, traditionally, has not had this problem. But times are changing and it needs to be rebalanced.”

Because of spending cuts it is unlikely that the town will see an increase in the number of officers on the beat in the near future. Essex Police is looking to make �50 million savings and chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle has indicated that the force is likely to lose officers, not gain them.

Yet there could be some positive movements elsewhere – the town’s CCTV system is currently under a major review and the town council’s working group is eager to get things moving to improve the current set up.

Uttlesford District councillor Alastair Walters, who helped introduce Saffron Walden’s current CCTV system over 10 years ago, sits on the working group.

He told the Reporter: “No-one wants CCTV, especially in our ancient market town, but it is necessary – and there needs to be improvements.

“It is two-pronged situation: the cameras need to be good enough to be able to assist police with images that they can use; they also need to act as a visual deterrent.”

Cllr Walters added that a trial has been carried out using an infra-red camera in the market square which showed significant enhancements to that which is already in place. However, to install the kind of system wanted by the town council would cost in the region of �40,000.

“This can only be achieved if the results and quality – as well as police approval – is justified,” said Cllr Walters.

“And then we have to find the money. There is no funding around for this sort of thing. It would have to come from local resources and at the moment that is precious.

“So in the first instance we have to be sure that any cameras we look to bring in would bring about significant improvements.”

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