Norfolk police issue apology over response to boat theft

Firefighters launch a rescue boat on the River Yare from River Green, Thorpe St Andrew at 10.30pm on Tuesday. Firefighters launch a rescue boat on the River Yare from River Green, Thorpe St Andrew at 10.30pm on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 12, 2013
9:09 AM

Police have apologised to a boat owner for their response to a theft of the vessel which allowed thieves to escape and admitted their “service fell short on this occasion”.

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Norfolk police launched a review of its initial response to reports of suspicious behaviour at moorings near Bungalow Lane, Thorpe St Andrew, on which turned out to be the theft of a 33ft cruiser.

The police were initially called about the theft shortly after 6pm but it was not until 6.48pm on November 19 when officers were dispatched after the theft was reported by the owner.

A police spokesman said: “Following a review of our initial response to this incident, it has been concluded that officers should have been dispatched to the location following the first call to police reporting suspicious activity.

“We have apologised to the boat owner for this delay and members of control room staff have received management advice on the appropriate grading of such calls.

“Subsequent police action on the night ensured the stolen boat was recovered and, as a result of police enquires in the following days, two people were arrested on suspicion of theft. We pride ourselves on getting things right first time and are disappointed that our service fell short on this occasion.”

The 45 year old owner of the boat, who did not want to be named, said he was pleased to have received an apology but insisted the situation need not have escalated to the extent it did - with a police helicopter searching the scene and a crew from Norfolk fire service having deployed an inflatable dinghy to help.

He said: “It goes some way to making up for what happened but it’s just a waste of money. If they’d have reacted quicker it wouldn’t have escalated. “I don’t know how much it costs to put a helicopter in the air but it can’t be cheap. There was an awful lot of money wasted on that evening.

“The bottom line is...if they’d have reacted they’d have reacted they would have caught him in the act.”

Despite being left “frustrated” and “angry” by the theft the owner, who had only had the boat for a couple of months when the incident happened, said the police officers on the ground who dealt with it were “superb”.

The green 33ft long Aqua Fibre 33 cruiser, with a white cabin, was stolen from near Kingfisher Cruisers in Bungalow Lane at 6pm, and led to a police helicopter searching the scene and a crew from Norfolk fire service deployed their inflatable dinghy to help.

The boat was later recovered further along the River Yare close to the A47 at Postwick, heading in the Bramerton direction.

The police called firefighters to help them in the operation, and one fire engine from Carrow and a Environment Agency and a Fire and Rescue Service van arrived in Thorpe St Andrew at about 10pm. Specialist Broadsbeat officers and the dog unit also helped.

They firefighters launched the dinghy from River Green, near the Rushcutter pub on Yarmouth Road, at 10.28pm, with four firefighters using head torches and lamps to search the area.

As previously reported, police were criticised for their response to the incident.

Speaking at the time Andrew Banner, managing director of Freedom Cruisers in Bungalow Lane, who was the first to phone the police, said: “It’s a shambles. They just did not act fast enough. If they had come out earlier they would have caught them red-handed.

“If the police had acted with the swiftness which, as citizens, we would all like them to act, we would be looking at people in cells overnight.”

The force also came under question after refusing to give out any information during the six-hour drama, despite the police helicopter above alerting thousands to the operation.

Have you got a crime story? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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