The worst places for beauty spot car break-ins in Chichester district

Sussex Police
Sussex Police

A Freedom of Information request has revealed the worst places for rural car park thefts in the district, with one vehicle even stripped of its doors and bonnet this summer.

The incidents recorded by Chichester police were requested by a retired police officer, who had served many years in the area and was concerned at the proliferation of break-ins and thefts.

Reports of crime in rural beauty spots showed West Stoke car park in Downs Road as the worst place for crime, with 17 incidents in the one area from January 1 to September 11 this year.

Measures to patrol the car park appear to have had a sizable impact – there were 43 similar incidents in the same car park during the same period last year.

Among the items reported stolen from vehicles in the district have been designer handbags, a lawnmower, a massage couch, number plates and a Land Rover Defender that had four doors and a bonnet ‘mechanically removed’ in South Harting.

There was also a Mercedes SLK stolen from Chidham Lane, containing medication and other personal items. The keys to the car had been in a Fiat parked in the same location, which had its window smashed.

In West Harting, a .17mm rifle was taken from a Ford Ranger via another smashed window, the most common modus operandi for thieves.

Hot spots in 2019 have included Harting Down, Rowlands Castle and Hunters Race in West Lavant.

The retired officer who requested the records said it showed greater strategic efforts were needed, particularly across counties, as thieves appeared to be branching out from the east-west lines of main roads deeper into rural areas.

He said the estimated cost to communities of the 864 incidents reported since January 2018 could have exceeded £800,000.

Sussex Police said it was aware of a number of break-ins at beauty spots in the Chichester district and reminded residents not to leave valuables in vehicles unattended, particularly when visiting beauty spots.

A spokesman said: “Officers conduct high visibility patrols in the affected locations and all lines of enquiry, including CCTV footage, of these incidents will be investigated.

“If you would like to report an incident of this matter please report online or call 101 quoting reference Operation Mini.”