WOKINGHAM’S Air Cadets fear their new centre could face serious vandalism during the long summer months.
The brand new £750,000 base in Elizabeth Park, has been plagued with anti-social behaviour since it opened last September.
Three attempted break-ins as well as smashed light fittings, upturned slabs and a snapped flagpole have caused damage totalling thousands of pounds.
Now Cadet leaders are worried the vandalism will intensify during the long summer nights and have pleaded with council bosses to allow a security fence to be built.
“During the planning phases, concerns were raised that placing the unit on its present site would attract anti-social behaviour,” said a Cadet leader, who did not want to be named. “As part of this process an exterior boundary fence was not approved on aesthetic grounds.
Around 70 cadets aged between 12 and 18 use the centre four nights a week and other events are regularly held there.
Since then the building has been targeted by some local youths who use the steps as a congregation point.
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“On a number of occasions we have had cause to go to our building when the youths are present. We feel threatened approaching our own premises when they are at the doorstep particularly where they are drinking,” added the Cadet leader.
“This occurs on weekday lunchtimes when clearly they should be in school as well as evenings. Our fear is now with the long summer nights, youths will congregate at the centre and the vandalism and damage will increase significantly.
“The security lighting provides them with a lit and sheltered area where they hold ‘parties’ with plenty of evidence of drinking and drug taking and anti-social behaviour to local people.
“Youths have been running up and down the roof of the building and partying into the early hours of the morning.”
The Cadets say that they are disappointed with the response from council officials and police to their complaints.
Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner, executive member for finance and corporate resources,
said that the council is actively doing what it can to help the cadets.
He said: “We’re looking into what can be done, such as fencing. But as this concerns criminal damage, it can only be investigated by the police.
“We’ve spoken to them and they’re aware of the problem.
“In the meantime, our council teams that work in the area will pay particular attention whenever possible as part of their patrols.”
Inspector Alastair Lloyd, Wokingham Neighbourhood Team, added: “We have recently become aware of an increase in anti-social behaviour around your centre and the team have been patrolling the area.
“It is very useful to get more specific timings of when your unit are encountering problems.
“I would ask that if you are encountering issues with youths that you report this at the time on 101, or using the 999 number if it is a crime in progress. We will always try to get a unit there if available.
“I will ask Sgt Lorna Rivett, the neighbourhood sergeant for the area, to contact you and arrange a visit.”
The Cadets added: “We need some positive action in the area to reduce this. The council need to review the planning that prevented us from fencing off the property, this would provide a first line barrier for the building.
“We also need regular patrols from the police to discourage the gatherings and actions such as making it a ‘prescribed place’ that would mean action can be taking against drinking in the area.”