THE Chair of the Neighbourhood Watch group at Chapel Gate has said that a break-in reported there earlier this month is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to crime in the area.

An appeal to find two men was launched after a break-in at Lambert Court bike shed earlier this month, when one bike was stolen.

The incident at the development off Kingsclere Road took place at 4.47pm on February 12.

The charity CrimeStoppers and Hampshire police have launched an appeal to track down the two men shown on CCTV footage.

However, Stuart Claw, chair of the Chapel Gate Neighbourhood Watch scheme told the Gazette that the incident was the “tip of the iceberg” of problems faced by residents there.

Describing the incident, he said: “We became aware of it [the bike theft] because we have had similar incidents occurring across the development for about a year or so. All the blocks of flats have similar bike sheds, and one block had five stolen in a week! When it first happened a resident put a camera up.”

He added that the recent spate in such thefts appears to form part of a wider issue regarding crime in the area.

He added: “There is a lot that this estate has suffered from. We’ve had a lot of things going on on this development, it seems a bit bizarre how much.”

Stuart has lived on the Chapel Gate development since it opened in 2017.

He said: “Progressively, over the last three or four years, it’s got worse. Everything from drugs to public indecency, people stealing packages, people breaking into blocks and graffitting.”

When asked whether he believed the perpetrators to live locally, or further afield, he said: “People come in. During summer it would be at 5 o’clock in the evening - you wouldn’t think people would be that brazen to do that.

“At the moment, our Neighbourhood Watch are focussing on trying to stop these things. It’s a growing concern for residents. We have a large family atmosphere on the development. It’s something we want to get nipped in the bud.”

Stuart said the group has been working with the police, as well as VIVID which manages the development, to find a way forward.

“We encourage people to report everything that happens to the police. A lot of people will come to me directly and I will pass it on to the management authority, VIVID,” he said.

“The police and Basingstoke Cops have been very good. They’ve increased their patrols. But the police can only do so much, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. It suggests there may be a wider problem here.”

Speaking about what could be improved from a resident perspective, he added: “It needs to be easy for people to report things. I would like a better communication with residents after police have closed a case. When we had a spate of burglaries a while ago, there was a lot of worry but people felt they didn’t get any feedback [from police]. More open line of communication as to the results of investigations, that would address the unrest. At the moment we report it and there is increased police presence, but then it dies down until it happens again.”

One family on Robertson Way, whose home was burgled in January 2020, told the Gazette at the time that they had been forced to move out of their new home as the incident left them feeling unsafe.

Stuart added that residents feel “let down” by promises that don’t appear to have been followed through.

“The increase in bike thefts here at the moment is very worrying. They are supposed to be secure bike sheds. It’s very disheartening. I feel for residents that have to constantly lug their bikes up to their flats now. They are very expensive pieces of kit, and people have been using them to keep fit over lockdown, but the fact they’re being stolen is going to make people not bother.

“We would like the companies involved to acknowledge the issue and resolve it.”

Issuing a message to fellow residents of Chapel Gate, Stuart said: “I would actively encourage people to join the Neighbourhood Watch to raise any concerns they might have. We form a community so we can reach out to people who may feel insecure.”

Derek Streek, head of neighbourhoods at VIVID, told the Gazette: “We understand that the recent instances of anti-social behaviour, that have taken place at Chapel Gate, may be causing some residents concern and we’d like to offer reassurance that we’re working closely with the local police service to try and prevent further incidents from occurring.

“We’re also reviewing the current security measures in place for residents, who use the bike sheds at Chapel Gate.”

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary added: "We can confirm we received a report of a suspicious incident that took place at around 5pm on Friday 12 February in Aiden Court, Basingstoke.

"It was reported that two men were seen acting suspiciously by a bike shed in an underground car park, before leaving by car.

"We have also had a separate report that a bicycle was stolen from a bike shed in nearby Lambert Court sometime between 3pm and 6pm that day.

"The incidents are being treated as linked.

"Anyone with information should call 101 quoting the reference number 44210054784.

"We continue to encourage residents to speak with our officers and report crime to us on 101, or via our website, or by dialling 999 in an emergency. This will help us build a better picture of criminal activity in the area and adjust our response accordingly."