Beach huts alert

VANDALS and burglars targeting Budleigh Salterton s beach huts could be caught red-handed if a police-backed alarm system takes off.

VANDALS and burglars targeting Budleigh Salterton's beach huts could be caught red-handed if a police-backed alarm system takes off.

Over the years, the wooden seafront beach huts have fallen foul of a number of thefts and vandal attacks - where hundreds of pounds of possessions and equipment have been stolen, or deliberately damaged by fire.

Now the police are encouraging beach hut owners to hit back at vandals by installing alarms in their huts which will emit an audible alarm should someone attempt to break-in.

However, East Devon District Council said the scheme would prove too expensive to operate.

A council spokesman said: "EDDC welcomes any measure designed to reduce or deter crime, but the expense of connecting our huts to an alarm system would be significant.

"In view of the low level of crime currently experienced by these huts, such a level of spending would not be viable."

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Budleigh Salterton neighbourhood beat manager PC David Lea said he believed scores of beach hut damage went unreported because people felt powerless to stop thefts and attacks, or trace their stolen property.

PC Lea said: "There have been a couple of reports of beach huts being broken in to, but I have a strong suspicion it's been under reported.

"I think it's something people who own or rent a beach hut along the seafront tolerate and don't report to us.

"These alarms would give beach hut owners some sort of warning and would act as a deterrent to offenders.

"People might argue that, because of the remote location of the huts, no one will hear the alarms. But it is better there is a chance of someone hearing it and us going down, than the owner going down a few days or weeks later and finding their stuff has been set on fire or flung around on the beach."

The police said the beach hut alarm scheme was still in the early planning stages.

The police plan to gauge public reaction by canvassing the beach hut owners before forging ahead.

If the idea proves popular, the alarms could cost beach hut owners as little as �15 each to install.

PC Lea said more people signing up could considerably lower the cost of each alarm.

He said the battery-operated system had been tried and tested and was deemed suitable for remote wooden buildings, such as sheds, beach huts and garages.

East Devon District Council owns 51 beach huts at Budleigh Salterton beach, 39 of which it leases direct and 12 of which are let via a concession with the Tourist Information Centre. There are 84 privately-owned huts.