£14,000 boost to slash park thefts
CRIME-CUTTING measures are being stepped up at one of Stoke-on-Trent's biggest parks – thanks to a £14,000 cash boost.
The Friends of Central Forest Park group want to see the introduction of three shelters and locker facilities at the park's skating area.
Members have submitted a planning application for the upgrades, which also include a new pushchair stall and bicycle and scooter racks.
They hope the new scheme will help deter thieves at the park following a 'high number' of mobile phone and bag thefts.
The initiative follows a successful bid for funding from PCSOs Sue Wall and Tracy Robinson, from Staffordshire Police, under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
Friends group chairman Paul Breeze said: "We are delighted that the bid was successful as we now have around £14,000 to spend on new equipment and maintenance work.
"We have decided to invest in three replacement shelters because the ones we currently have at the skate plaza have gaps underneath.
"It means people can put their hands underneath and grab someone else's bag.
"We hope these new ones will make it very difficult for people to do that."
Councillor Breeze, of Hanley, whose ward covers Birches Head and Central Forest Park, added: "The whole thing is about trying to reduce the level of theft and crime at the park.
"And as part of that we want to install new lockers because if people are on their skateboards or bikes they can't carry bags, and if they are on their own they can't always look at what is going on.
"This way, they will be able to keep their phones and wallets safe in the lockers."
If plans are given the go ahead, the 12 lockers will be fixed to the side of two existing shelters, which will be in view of the park's CCTV system.
It has not yet been decided how the lockers would be accessed but members are looking into the idea of hiring out keys for the facilities or using a coin system.
As part of the plans, the proposed anti-theft shelters will include transparent covers to stop thieves reaching in.
Fellow group member Dave Shallcross, of Werrington, who runs the kiosk in Central Forest Park, said: "This is a really good idea and will be a great benefit for park users.
"In the past I have had people asking me if they can leave their bags and keys at the kiosk because they're frightened they will be stolen, so it shows there is a need for things like lockers out there.
"In the past we have had a few people come to us and tell us things have gone missing so hopefully this will help play a part in preventing this from happening again.
"We are just waiting for a decision on the plans and then the work can finally start."
Stoke-on-Trent City Council's planning committee is due to make a decision within the next eight weeks.