Police in dawn raids to trap fine dodgers
IT S Monday at 7am and the police are hammering on a front door trying to catch up with one of their targets. His crime was petty – avoidance of a train fare – and took place nearly two years ago. But his is one of almost three dozen people from Hartford
IT'S Monday at 7am and the police are hammering on a front door trying to catch up with one of their targets.
His crime was petty - avoidance of a train fare - and took place nearly two years ago.
But his is one of almost three dozen people from Hartford and Oxmoor whom officers were aiming to wake.
Between them they owe almost £10,000 in unpaid fines for a collection of crimes ranging from assault and drink-driving to not wearing a seat belt.
And they were not the only people in for a surprise this week. Motorists without any tax or insurance, and those driving vehicles unfit for the road, were also targets. Some faced having their vehicles clamped or towed away.
The raids, the police say, were orchestrated as a reaction to residents in Hartford and Oxmoor keen to see officers clamp down on petty crimes.
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Working with court warrant officials from Drakes, police officers were visiting the homes of 34 people who had outstanding fines.
"These people would have had a letter sent to them and a court summons," said Pc Luke Coulson, neighbourhood policing constable for the Oxmoor and Hartford area.
"Our visit should not come as a surprise to them. There've had plenty of opportunities to pay their fines.
"If they cannot afford to pay, then we can put them in contact with people who can help. Instead they choose to bury their heads.
"This does not work. People can go to prison for failing to pay their fines. They cannot avoid justice because we will come looking for them."
A man who had avoided a £4.80 train fare was visited at 8am by police and court warrant officials knocking on his door in Norfolk Road.
"The fine has been outstanding since 2005 and now amounts to £224.90," said Pc Coulson.
"He thought he had got away with it. But by not paying the fare and then the fine, he faced being picked up by police and taken to court."
The next stop was an address in Sapley Park. No one was at home but Pc Coulson promised: "We will keep coming back. We will not go away."
Mark Cowley, director of Drakes, said: "If they do not answer the door then we come back later when they are watching EastEnders. If they still fail to answer the door then we come back tomorrow.
"Then, as a last resort, we visit their place of work."
In Thames Road, the team found a woman who owed the courts £200 for causing criminal damage to a property.
Eight homes in Godmanchester were also on the "to visit" list in an attempt to collect £3,300 in unpaid fines.
Mr Cowley said his team usually visited about 25 addresses a day, trying to collect on both new and old warrants.
"Last week we executed a warrant that had been issued in 2000," he said. "We do not give up and people cannot hide from us."
Monday's raids were the first step in a week-long operation organised by police, the DVLA, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, TV Licensing and Trading Standards.
It aims to tackle anti-social behaviour, unpaid fines and vehicle crime in the Hartford and Oxmoor area.
Pc Coulson said: "This action is the result of information we have received from members of the public about people who are evading justice.
"This week is about bringing to justice those people who believe they can hide from the law."
Sue Taylor, sector commander inspector for the area, said: "We are keen to support our partner agencies and work closely with them on a regular basis to ensure that offenders are bought to justice."
INFORMATION: Anyone with information relating to crime in Oxmoor or Hartford should contact Huntingdon police on 0845 4564564.