'Vandalism is making our lives hellish' - pensioners in Forres targeted by anti-social behaviour
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A DEDICATED police officer is investigating a spate of vandalism and antisocial behaviour in Forres.
Inspector for Forres, Lossiemouth and Speyside, Tony McCullie, confirms a number of measures are being deployed following recent incidents including windows being smashed in neighbouring housing estates over the last few weeks.
He said: "We are doing all within our gift to address it. Part of this includes a meeting with partners later in the month.
"We are hopeful that we can progress enquiries to the point where we can report the persons responsible. A dedicated officer has been allocated the task to look at all the vandalisms which have occurred recently.
"We are following up various lines of enquiry and I am hopeful we will get a resolution."
He added: "We use a CCTV van capable of being deployed in areas at short notice.
"We deployed additional resources in the town at the weekend which resulted in a number of children being spoken to and conveyed home to their parents on Saturday night.
A pensioner who wishes to remain nameless has been targeted three times with stone throwing in the last few weeks at his home off Nairn Road. He explained his frustration after having to pay more than £1000 to fix the PVC frontage of his house after youths threw a large stone through it.
He said: "After it happened I went out and saw three of them go into Tesco. Three teenage girls lagged behind filming me before they disappeared around a corner. They then followed the other youths into Tesco.
"I called 999 and requested police attendance. I waited for them to meet me at Tesco so that I could point them out - after 45 minutes they never appeared so I went home. Later at 11.15pm I was called to be told the police had been tied up and could not attend."
The homeowner lives in a street where the vast majority of his neighbours are of an older age too. He invested in his house a few years ago for his retirement but like others in the street is considering moving away.
He said: "One neighbour is 84 this year and sometimes goes to the bed at the back of her house to avoid the stonings. I know of one person moved away because of the antisocial behaviour and another is leaving because of the yobs. It's hard to sell houses here though because trouble with vandalism has to be mentioned in the house report."
He added: "It seems as though nothing is being done about it. I call the police and I'm told they'll call me back. When this doesn't happen, you tend to just give up.
"We need more police officers to catch the vandals then make their parents pay for the damage. It's at the stage now where folk are talking about handling matters themselves but we wouldn't want to see vigilantes here."
Grandparents Robert and Margaret McIvor's home at Kintail Grove, Thornhill has also been targeted, twice. Firstly, at 6pm on Sunday, November 27 they were watching football on TV when a glass bottle of aftershave was thrown off their living window, badly cracking the outer pane.
Margaret said: "We went out but there was no one to be seen. We felt angry - some folk wouldn't be able to afford to repair that kind of damage.
"We called the police on 101 but couldn't get through. A recorded message said they were very busy and to call back later. We got through on the Monday morning and were told we would be called back on the Wednesday. Inverness Police called on the Wednesday, gave us a crime reference number and confirmed the crime would be dealt with by Forres Police. Two or three weeks later they called us and took a statement over the phone."
Everything was quiet again until Friday, February 4 at 7pm when they heard a crash so went to the back of the house and put the light on.
Robert said: "Our kitchen window was broken and we found the stone that was used. We couldn't see anyone again but next door's CCTV filmed three teenagers aged about 14-years-old sneaking around the car park using their mobile phone light to find something to throw. Once they found it they threw it over the fence.
"We are raging, even more so than the last time. It won't be until they are caught. We tried calling the police that night but again couldn't get through. We went up to the station the next day but it was closed. We were advised to use the police website so we got a form from there to attach to an email which we sent. We were called back by Inverness Police on the Sunday night then finally spoke to Forres Police on the Monday. We told them about the CCTV footage our neighbour has but he says he still hasn't spoken to them!"
Margaret added: "It would be nice if the police actually came to your door. Maybe they think as it's just a broken window it's not needed but what if there were 100 broken windows - would they attend in person then?
"The public are being left to our own devices - we're not given any information after making reports.
"One of the youths had a white flash on his top and we've been given a name. It shouldn't take Sherlock Holmes to work out who the vandals are!"
Moray Council is one partner organisation that is expected to help the police.
A spokesman said: "Our antisocial behaviour colleagues will liaise with Police Scotland to discuss what support we may be able to offer."
Councillor Aaron McLean (Forres, SNP) has seen some of the trouble for himself.
He said: "It's awful that such a small amount of youths can cause such alarm and damage amongst the community. Hopefully we can see more of a police presence around to try to deter them. I saw that on Sunday night when I was walking my dog round Thornhill and Pilmuir."
Social media has been rife with reports of street lamps being broken, stones being thrown at house windows and cars, bottles being smashed and glass left strewn across pavements and near play areas, garden ornaments being stolen, paint being emptied on a house and a developer's show home being vandalised. Areas being subjected to the crimes include Califer and Pilmuir, Thornhill, Fleurs and Knockomie.
A number of constituents have complained to Moray's MP, Douglas Ross.
He said: "I get contacted fairly regularly by constituents from across Moray concerned about vandalism and antisocial behaviour in their communities. However, in recent weeks, there seems to be an increase in this type of behaviour in Forres.
"Elderly residents claim that groups of youths as young as 12 are causing trouble and there is underage drinking throughout the town. I’ve had reports of damaged cars, houses, gardens and smashed bottles of alcohol on the roads."
Mr Ross claims that many people no longer telephone the police, as, because of a shortage of officers, police units are unable to attend.
He added: "A minority are making the lives of some local people a real misery.
"We need to work together to make our communities safer and that is why I have written to the local police area commander and Moray Council highlighting the many concerns that have been raised with me and seeking to deal with the increased antisocial Behaviour in Forres."
Local officer Sergeant Kenneth MacConnachie is aware of correspondence from Douglas Ross MP regarding the concerns.
He said: "We want to reassure our community that our officers are actively investigating matters, doing everything they can to deal with those responsible. We have additional high visibility patrols in the community and will thoroughly investigate every incident that is reported to us.
"Local officers will continue to work with partners to provide additional support and service to the area.
"Anyone with any concerns can contact Police Scotland via 101, or speak to their local officers."