SHOTGUN-TOTING vigilantes could soon be patrolling the streets and country lanes of Newent following the recent spike in thefts, burglaries and assaults in the town - according to local civic leaders.
Newent town councillors say residents may soon resort to forming armed groups in a bid to tackle the rising levels of crime in the community if pleas to reinstate a manned police station in the town are ignored.
Former mayor Roger Beard, whose house was recently targeted by burglars, said the town has had enough.
He said: “I really feel we need to talk to the police about the reinstatement of a station in Newent with officers manning it and not coming in on an ad-hoc basis.
“That’s what we want as a town otherwise we are going to see groups setting themselves up to look after the safety of the town. Let’s not beat about the bush. That is a very likely scenario.
“I don’t want to hear from the police that they’ve not had enough incidents reported to them to raise their presence in the town.
“Whenever we raise the issue we are told Newent is a low priority because we don’t have much crime but there are many people who can’t get through on 101 and I’m encouraging them to call 999 if they see someone with a weapon.
“We cannot allow this to continue any longer.”
Town councillor Mary Duncan said the increase in thefts from farmyards might prompt country folk to gather as vigilante groups.
She said: “There has been so much rural crime that somebody is going to get hurt. So much kit has been lost off farms and nothing has happened to prevent it.
“And now the National Farmers’ Union are saying they may not insure because it’s happening too frequently.
“The farmers or country folk might start gathering together as vigilante or support groups.
“We all know local people living in the country have got their shotguns and somebody is going to get hurt.”
Fellow councillor Sandra Marcovecchio also said she overheard a local trader saying they would use a baseball bat to fight crime.
She said: “I would just reiterate the danger of vigilante groups being set up.
“On Friday night some people had broken into an empty house and a local trader told the PCSO that if it wasn’t sorted out he would be taking care of it with a baseball bat.
“We have the long summer months ahead and we really need to nip this in the bud.”
Forest Inspector Lee Solly said action has been taken to combat an increase of non-dwelling burglaries in Newent.
He said: “We have taken action and we have increased patrols in Newent.
"We now patrol more regularly to combat farm thefts and we are starting to patrol more during early evening.
“Vigilante groups are wholly unacceptable and they will be dealt with in the same way as offenders if they act unlawfully - we will not tolerate vigilante groups.
“I urge anyone with information in the community to pass it onto us and not to confront anyone or put yourselves in danger.
“If anyone sees anything unusual, including what they believe may be a suspicious vehicle, please note down the registration number and call 101 with the information.
"If you believe a burglary is actually taking place call 999."
The force are also working with the NFU to gain advice on how to combat these crimes.
This includes the installation of trackers on vulnerable farming machinery.
Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said “I am very disappointed to hear this sort of talk from responsible public representatives.
"If it is true, it’s very unhelpful and unlawful.
“Most police in the county are unarmed for very good reason and those that do carry weapons are highly trained and disciplined.
"There is no excuse for people taking the law into their own hands.
"The wanton use of weapons can only result in people getting hurt.
“Any hint of people holding shotgun certificates for any purpose other than that granted would result in them being revoked immediately.”