A community forum has welcomed an “honest” response from police following concerns about the way in which an arson was investigated.
Inspector Rachel Carr, of the Neighbourhood Policing Team, spoke at a meeting of the Southgate Community Forum on Saturday February 7, where she was asked about four fires in the neighbourhood.
One in particular was highlighted – an arson in Rosemead Gardens on October 30 where a bin and a child’s slide were set on fire in the early hours of the morning.
Residents, including Labour Cllr Michael Pickett, had asked why no forensic examination had been conducted if arson had been suspected.
Insp Carr explained no one had seen or reported the fire at the time and it only came to the attention of police later that afternoon when a resident contacted them.
CCTV footage of the area provided no help, although evidence was collected from the scene.
A spokesman for Sussex Police confirmed: “Fire and police both attended the scene and, during the investigation, CCTV was viewed.
“The images did not capture the offences and it was not good enough quality to identify the person seen in the images around 12.55am.
“Two items found in the bin were seized as part of the investigation.”
David Threader, the forum’s acting chairman, thanked Insp Carr for speaking at the meeting and explaining the situation to the 50 residents who attended.
He said: “We felt that Insp Carr presented herself honestly and effectively.”
He added: “It was clear that the reduction of government spending on the police has had a detrimental effect on the level of attention the police can spend on this kind of crime.
“The view we have is that Insp Carr was articulate, honest and helpful to Southgate residents, which was respected by the meeting.”
Despite concerns about last year’s fires, Insp Carr told the meeting crime in Southgate had fallen.
Sussex Police figures showed a total of 884 crimes were reported in the neighbourhood in 2014 compared to 932 in 2013.
While crime may not be as big an issue in Southgate as in other neighbourhoods, the community forum has called on residents to make reporting suspicious behaviour a part of their daily routine.
Mr Threader said: “We’re trying to encourage people to report what they see.
“If they feel there’s something going on and are too frightened to do something about it, they can contact Crimestoppers or the police or firefighters.”
Insp Carr welcomed the initiative and added: “We support the forum to encourage residents to report any crimes, suspicious behaviour or incidents to us so we can investigate.
“We rely on information from the public. Ring 101 or if it is an emergency call 999.”
The Southgate Community Forum is open to all residents in the neighbourhood. For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org .