Chief Inspector Tony Williams – who is in charge of police operations in Penarth and the Vale of Glamorgan – told members of the Penarth Marina Residents’ Association last night that his officers had made 2 arrests in relation to the spate of thefts from motor vehicles in the Marina.
There was applause from the audience as the chief inspector said the police had “identified a gang of 17 and 18-year-olds” which, they believed, had been responsible for the recent spate of crime in the area .
CI Williams said there were “another 3 suspects” yet to be apprehended. Ci Williams said “We know their names we know where they are and we are going to get them this week”.
He said the police were very confident that this was the gang which had been behind the robberies . The individuals in the gang, he said were “all from Cardiff” . CHief Inspetotr Williams said the gang had been “quite chaotic in terms of their offending” . They had offended, he said, all over Cardiff .
Ci Williams said that in interviews with individual members of the gang it had become clear that they saw Penarth Marina as an “easy target for a number of reasons” . He said he was “very pleased” with the arrests and this accounted for “all the auto crime thefts” in the area.
But Chief Inspector Williams then directed his comments at the gang’s victims, the Penarth Marina Residents themselves. He said that in the majority of cases the vehicles from which items had been taken had been left “insecure” [ i.e. he alleged that the owners had not locked the vehicles]. The cars, he said, had been an “easy target” . Maybe “one ot two had been locked” – but the majority had not been locked.
The police he said had identified “two specific nights “ (June 11th and July 1st) . A total of 8 offences had been committed on July 1st when the gang had come across the Barrage on pedal cycles and had just “tried their luck”. The gang members had just randomly tried car-door handles. This had proved successful. Items stolen included a dog lead, a fuel card, loose change, sunglasses, spectacles, wine and vodka .
Chief Inspector Williams said he then checked what his police officers had been doing in the course of the two or three hours during which the gang was raiding the cars in the Marina on July 1st . His officers, he said, cover a territory of 129 square miles and 80,000 residents. Penarth Marina had been identified as a crime hotspot and was designated as a “Waymarker Area”. He said he had looked into why his officers were not at the Marina when the crimes were being committed.
At the time the police were looking at “a laser” apparently directed at a plane landing at Cardiff Airport, a tractor on fire at Aberthin, a missing person from St Athan, a dwelling burglary in Sully and a “suspicious male” outside another premises in Sully – all of which had happened within the same time-frame. CI Williams said this was not what he described as a “woe is me” speech – it was simply an explanation as to why police were not at Penarth Marina that night. All the police resources had been taken up with other incidents across the Vale of Glamorgan.
CI Williams said – by way of reassurance to Marina Residents – that since June 16th , when Penarth Marina had been established as a “waymarker” , officers had made over 260 patrols in the Marina – daytime and night-time. He said “that is a lot of police visibility when you consider that last month police officers in Penarth dealt with 1,400 incidents” [ across the entire town]. Nevertheless, he ,Penarth Marina was a key priority for the police and he “totally understood” the frustrations that the Marina residents had . However since the arrests following the July 1st incidents, there had been no reports of any further crimes in Penarth Marina [ a claim which was later disputed by some in the audience].
CI Williams asked Marina Residents to ensure that when they left their vehicles at night they took their possessions out of their cars and locked them. This would take away the opportunity for criminals and make the Marina a “hostile” area for car thieves.
BURGLARY: Turning to other crime, CI Williams said there had been “just the one burglary here in the last few months – in May”. He said police had arrested “the 3 individuals responsible for that.”
Of the three , 2 were still under investigation and a third was already in prison for other offences. He said “very often the fear of crime is worse than the actual reality of recorded crime” .
ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOUR/DRUGS/ NITROUS OXIDE
CI Williams said that there had been one report the previous Saturday night [July 7th 2018] of anti-social behaviour in the Marina. which related to a group of men “fishing” with a white box and (suspiciously short) fishing rods. Police had attended but by the time they arrived the men had gone.
In the previous month (June 2018) there had been 3 reports of drug activity including cannabis.
Ci Williams said that he would “guarantee you categorically ” that the police will act on all information provided by local residents. He said he was conscious of the fact that he was responsible for “the quality of life” of Marina residents.
101 CALLS: A number of local residents at the meeting said they had experienced problems in contacting the police on the “non-urgent” 101 number. A lady in the audience said she had tried to help a friend who had had a car stolen from Northcliffe in broad daylight at 18:00 but she had had to spend 2 hours on the phone dialling 101. In desperation they had dialled 999 – but were told to “get off the phone” and “keep dialling 101”. They had then called Penarth police station, Cardiff police station and Barry police station, none of which answered . She then took her friend by car to Penarth police station and tried to report the crime using the yellow telephone mounted on the outside of Penarth Police station [Penarth Police station is not open to the general public] only to be told to “ring 101″. Although the two women had been told that no one in Barry would take their statement they drove to Barry police station where eventually they were able to report the crime. She said it had taken two and a half hours for two elderly people to report a stolen car .
The chief inspector admitted that there were often long delays in obtaining an answer using the 101 police number – and urged members of the public who could not get through to call 999.
He said demand on South Wales Police was up by 10% this summer compared with the previous year . In May 2018 the police had taken 17,500 calls on 999 compared with 15,500 in May 2017 . In the last 6 weeks police had dealt with 40 incidents of “missing persons” in the area .
Penarth Marina was one of two “waymarker areas” in the town – the other being in the Redlands Road, Meadow Road and Plymouth Road areas where there had been domestic burglaries.
Many residents complained about the lack of street lighting in the Penarth Marina area late at night and in the early hours of the morning.
The street lighting so-called “part-night” switch-off had been instituted three years ago by the former Labour administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Council as a “cost-saving measure”.
The current Conservative administration in the Vale of Glamorgan Copuncil is progressing a scheme to change all street lights in the Vale from the orange sodium type lights to much more economical LED street-lights – but this change over is taking longer than originally planned.
Attending the meeting and listening to the complaints from residents were Penarth Town Councillor Gary Allman (Conservative St Augustines – who is a Marina resident) Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) and Vale of Glamorgan Councillor Sivaruby Sivagnanam (Labour St Augustines) .
Also in attendance was former Vale and former Penarth Town councillor Gwyn Roberts who relinquished his Vale seat and failed to retain his Penarth Town Council seat in 2017 .
Cllr Sivagnanam asked for residents to copy her in on any emails sent to the police reporting local crimes to enable her to create a picture of what was going on
There was appreciative applause from a packed audience for Chief Inspector Williams as he concluded his briefing.