FRESH calls have been made for CCTV in Sherborne after claims that a lack of police presence is encouraging crime.
Members of a Sherborne charity are also questioning whether to go ahead with festive displays in the future after vandalism of the town’s Christmas tree.
The Western Gazette reported last week how vandals snapped off the top of the Christmas tree and broke light cables causing hundreds of pounds of damage.
The tree remained in darkness throughout the festive season and was dismantled early due to the incident.
Donated free of charge annually by Sherborne Castle Estates, the tree is erected by the Rotary Club of Sherborne and lights are provided by Sherborne Chamber of Trade and Commerce.
Rotarian John House, who helped to clear up the damage, said he had difficulty in rallying police assistance.
He said: “I went down to the police station, which was closed, and saw an officer in her car. She had to leave but told me to search the town for the special constable on patrol.
“He attended the scene but could not get any information from the rabble of some 40 people in the square, or control them.”
Mr House said TV crime programmes show the need for CCTV to catch criminals.
He said: “Certainly in the Parade it would be very useful. In previous years we’ve had the baby Jesus in the Conduit nativity scene smashed to smithereens, and the donkey pinched and dumped.
“Members are already saying that we should stop doing it and we will be meeting next week to discuss the problem.”
Sally-Ann Kodurand, chairman of Sherborne Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said she was “devastated” by the vandalism. The organisation arranges the town’s festive shopping day where the tree is first illuminated for the season.
She said: “It is a severe blow to the town financially and morally. We are running on a reduced budget and I am uncertain if we could incur the cost of a new set of lights. We may have to appeal for a donation of a new set.
“This is not the sort of image we want to give out as a town. It has seriously put into question our plans for Christmas 2013 which we begin planning this month.”
Last month a jewellery store was raided by thieves just two months after it opened. The owners said CCTV in the town centre was “necessary”.
Sarah Davis and Tony Bates, of Hudson & Hall on Cheap Street, had more than £5,000 of stock stolen on Miss Davis’s birthday.
Mr Bates said he has considered campaigning for a security guard or surveillance in the high street.
A spokesman for Dorset Police media relations office said: “There were no exceptional circumstances surrounding the policing of Sherborne during the Christmas period. We would not comment on operational matters or go into detail regarding staffing numbers.”
Sergeant Rachel Goodwin, of Sherborne Police, directed residents in need of assistance to use the police phone in front of Sherborne Police Station on Digby Road when the inquiry office is closed.
She said: “Members of the public will be immediately connected with a police operator who will deal with their inquiry.
“Even though a police officer may be seen within the vicinity of the town, or even at the police station, they may already be committed at an incident, so using the phone is the most appropriate option, rather than trying to locate an officer yourself.”
When asked about CCTV, Sgt Goodwin added: “It is difficult to predict if CCTV would specifically deter such incidents, but it can be an excellent crime detection and prevention tool.
“It may be something the town council or chamber of commerce may wish to consider for the future.”
Both incidents are still under investigation. Anyone with information should call Dorset Police on 101.