Midnight mass riot’

PUBLISHED: 13:32 11 October 2007 | UPDATED: 12:57 04 May 2010

A STREET fight erupted in Soham on Saturday night heightening fears of a lack of weekend policing in the town. Eighty teenagers were involved in the midnight brawl after trouble flared following an 18th birthday party. But residents claim the police took

A STREET fight erupted in Soham on Saturday night heightening fears of a lack of weekend policing in the town.

Eighty teenagers were involved in the midnight brawl after trouble flared following an 18th birthday party.

But residents claim the police took 45 minutes to reach Churchgate Street as youngsters brawled in the road. Shop windows were smashed and one resident described the incident as a "mass riot".

Resident John Biggs, who runs the BSW hardware store on Churchgate Street said: "It all started around midnight. They were threatening to push each other through the windows. The next thing I knew our shop window has been smashed and it's going to cost £600 to put it right. It was a mass riot."

Mr Biggs said he and wife Elaine rarely get to sleep before 2am at weekends due to rowdiness in the town centre but in the past he has been unwilling to call 999.

"I interpret emergency as a real emergency," he said. "The police were there by the time I got up but we haven't heard anything since."

Concerns about the lack of policing in the town were also raised at the Soham Town Forum meeting last Thursday.

Police Community Support Officer Kieran Moran explained to members that one officer is on long-term sick leave and another pregnant PCSO has been transferred to light duties.

"The general impression is that we're short-staffed and that won't change in the immediate future," he said.

PSCO Moran said due to lack of funding there were no new civilian posts being created to help PSCOs in the community and community engagement officer, Kate Kent is to leave her post shortly and will not be replaced.

Soham town councillor Anne Pallett said police took 45 minutes to answer Saturday night's call to Churchgate Street.

"I really feel that there should be a police presence on weekends, especially during the more difficult hours," she said.

Soham resident Donna Martin said: "It's vital that there is a visible police presence. If people are on long-term sick then we should get a replacement."

Problems with anti social behaviour in the grounds of Soham Village College and the town's St Andrew's Primary School were raised at the Soham Neighbourhood Panel meeting last Wednesday.

Now a group of Soham residents are writing to Cambridgeshire Constabulary calling for improvements to rural policing.

Ely police temporary inspector, Alan Savill, said: "There is one dedicated police officer and one dedicated PCSO in the village at the moment. That does not mean policing has been affected. The wider neighbourhood policing team has stepped in when required and they in turn are supported by the rest of the officers on the sector. This includes reactive officers, officers from the dog unit and traffic officers.

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