A chief inspector has spoken out to reassure residents following fears there has been increase in crime.

St Albans Chief Inspector Shane O’Neill is concerned about people’s perception of police is changing negatively in Harpenden due to “speculation and incorrect information on social media sites”.

He revealed specialist plain-clothed officers were on burglary prevention and detection duties across the area during January to tackle thefts and burglaries.

Mr O’Neill said: “I encourage my officers to be highly visible in the community either on foot, bikes or vehicles.

“However there are many occasions when they need to be in plain clothes, so members of the public may not be aware that officers are on the streets, but please be reassured that they are there.

“We regularly do this to help prevent burglaries and other crimes such as pickpocketing, which again has resulted in arrests.”

Harpenden is covered by 24/7 uniformed intervention teams who respond to 999 and many other non-emergency calls, plus Safer Neighbourhood Team officers, including PCSOs and Specials, who are based at Harpenden Police Station.

They are supported by detectives in our Local Crime Unit, who investigate a range of crimes including burglaries and robberies.

These teams are in turn supported by specialist central departments that deal with the most serious crimes or where victims are particularly vulnerable, such as in child abuse cases.

Mr O’Neill added that during December, following a slight rise in thefts from motor vehicles, a number of people were arrested over Christmas and these thefts reduced as a result.

He said: “The frustrating thing is that we are often told that the victims of these thefts have not locked their cars, as they would prefer the contents to be stolen than have damage caused to their vehicle.

“This does encourage the thefts as these opportunist thieves only want the easiest ‘prey’. My advice would be to secure your vehicle and remove all valuables, including loose change, as thieves will not smash their way into a vehicle unless they can already see property within; if you do not, expect to lose it.”

Neighbourhood surgeries are held in Harpenden, Redbourn and Wheathampstead for residents to speak to their local PCSO about crime or anti-social behaviour or pick up crime prevention advice.

Visit www.herts.police.uk/saferneighbourhoods and select Harpenden for more information.

To receive emails from Neighbourhood Watch, sign up to the Online Watch Link (OWL) via www.owl.co.uk or speak to a local officer.