String of burglaries at Houghton Regis schools causes thousands of pounds worth of damage

Cllr Goodchild, Mrs Houghton and Mrs Pargeter with school pupils
Cllr Goodchild, Mrs Houghton and Mrs Pargeter with school pupils

Mindless thugs have inflicted thousands of pounds worth of damage on Houghton Regis schools after a spate of burglaries.

Tithe Farm Primary School is facing bills of up to £6,000 to fix damage after it was broken into three times within a two week period.

The first break-in occurred at around 1am on Wednesday, 27 June. Three males were seen running from the scene towards Hillborough Crescent. They were wearing hoodies and rucksacks and believed to be in their teens or early 20s.

Nearby Hawthorn Park Community School has also experienced several burglaries.

According to both schools, burglars were unable to get past their main offices into the wider school areas and have instead inflicted mindless vandalism – smashing doors and windows.

Hawthorn Park headteacher Jenni Houghton said: “There is the financial impact to consider and the way that affects the children in terms of resources. But also, the children are arriving and seeing their safe environment destroyed.

“Unfortunately, some children saw the damaged office at our school and they were distressed by it.”

Tithe Farm headteacher Deborah Pargeter said: “Our children have seen the front door completely shattered and they were upset.

“We’re aware that police are really stretched, I have spoken to our local community police sergeant and she’s helping us... as a community of schools, and as a Houghton Regis community, we know that 99% of people are supportive and are trying to build up the town.”

Ms Houghton added: “It is a very supportive community and it’s a shame that this is having such a detrimental impact.”

Repeated burglaries have been reported at facilities such as a sports centre as well as other neary businesses. A brick was thrown through a window at Tithe Farm Primary School and the children’s centre adjoining it was broken into last Friday.

Mrs Pargeter said: “Some of it is just very foolish, they smashed a door with a big green button next to it.”

Besides the costs of fixing the damage, both schools are spending money on security. They fear further break-ins will force them to consider further cuts to their already tight budgets.

Tithe Farm Primary School’s head of governors is Cllr Susan Goodchild, who represents Houghton Hall ward on Central Bedfordshire Council.

Cllr Goodchild said: “Last week, I raised these issues with our MP Andrew Selous and we also have a senior police officer present at our next combatting crime group meeting on July 18 to discuss police presence in the town.

“The Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway has given her schedule of public meetings. There is one in Dunstable in August but sadly Houghton Regis is not on the list.”

In spite of the recent raids, Houghton Regis schools are keen to point out they have a positive outlook and an exciting programme events for children.

Sergeant Louise Bates, from the Houghton Regis community policing team, said: “Since these incidents, officers have been engaging extensively with both schools and putting measures in place to counter further break-ins.

“Officers have conducted late night patrols at Tithe Farm, put a specialist response plan in place in the event of further break-ins and arranged for a crime prevention officer to offer advice.

“We have advised Tithe Farm to install CCTV, as well as assessing further action we can take to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“We are not aware of any obvious links between these incidents and any wider offending.

“We appreciate this has had a big impact on the schools and the ability of staff to teach effectively, which is why we would urge anyone with any information to contact us to help with our enquiries.”

Anyone with any information about these incidents should contact police on 101, or report information online at Bedfordshire.police.uk/report