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Friday 17 June 2011, 15:57
By John Baxter, PCSO Jenny Maynard

Maxine Davis' smashed windowHere in Wincanton we have several thriving independent businesses started up and run by one person. Two stand out. Jenny Holt and Maxine Davis. Jenny bought an independent off licence and has turned it into a thriving specialist wine shop, coffee bar and restaurant. She has named it Divine Wines. People constantly pop in to chat over a cup of coffee, to choose some wine or to have a meal. The atmosphere is always extremely friendly and welcoming.

Maxine, building on her reputation in Mere, took over and renamed her South Street hair salon Maxine Davis, and has - see the WW article - completely refurbished it. It is now a fitting setting where she and her team of stylists can pamper her clients.

Both have set up their businesses on their own. Both have taken substantial financial risks in doing so. Both have thrown themselves into running their businesses with skill and enthusiasm and both have been able to offer employment, full and part-time, to a good number of willing assistants as they have built up a wide clientele, many who have become friends. And both have suffered the repeated smashing of their shop-front windows. For Jenny this has happened seven times, three in the last month. For Maxine this has happened four times in the last two years.

Smashing a shop window is a really vicious act. Repairs cost a great deal and if the breakage is repeated insurance becomes impossible or prohibitively expensive. The whole future of the businesses is put at risk. For someone working on their own like Jenny or Maxine that can affect not only their present cash flow, but their long term savings and retirement. If they had to sell up or close down it would also be the end of jobs for their employees, jobs not easily replaced as things are.

Smashed windowThe effect of these crimes however, as with so many crimes, cannot be measured simply in cash terms. The stress, pain, worry, and the fear of when it is going to happen again can sap the enthusiasm of the keenest entrepreneur. It can take all pleasure out of running a successful business.

So what can be done? CCTV? Police patrols when the pubs close? Following up leads and interviewing suspects? All these things I am told have been done, but so far no one has been charged for any of these crimes. I have spoken to the police who tell me they have to have hard evidence before anyone can be charged.

And what sort of people are carrying out these crimes? Is each one being done by a different person, or do we have some individual or individuals who are consumed by hatred or jealousy directed at either of these women, or are these simply the acts of thoughtless, inadequate, drunken slobs, oblivious of the consequences of their actions?

And you dear reader? Are you one of them and how do you sleep at night? And how good do you feel about yourself? Or are you the friend or partner of someone you know or suspect is behind any of these acts? Will you ignore your doubts or confront them? No - of course you would not think of reporting them.

And what about the rest of us? How do we feel about living in a community which looks good but where people who start up and run successful businesses are driven to the edge of giving up by the cowardly acts of vicious thugs? What is more they are not the only ones to be subjected to acts of vandalism. Properties in Mill Street have also been suffering. Are we just going to shrug our shoulders and turn away?

John Baxter



PCSO Jenny Maynard comments:

Criminal Damage is a criminal offence. Culprits can receive a prison sentence. However it is not an easy offence to detect. We need the help of residents to report to us what they see. We have CCTV in the town centre which helps with our enquiries; we patrol the High Street whenever possible; it's been identified as a PACT priority but we still need the help of the community. The value of the damage, the time taken to clear up and the emotional impact of the crime all have a huge effect on the shop owners. Smashing shop windows is not a victimless crime.

Both I and PC Andrew Brown can both be contacted at Wincanton Police station. You can contact us on 0845 456 7000 or you can call Crime stoppers on 0800 555 111. They never ask your name and never trace your call.

Any queries please let me know,

Kind Regards,

PCSO Jenny Maynard


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