Crime down while travellers were in Seaham - though human excrement found on beach

A police car on site as travellers leave the gypsy church gathering in Seaham.
A police car on site as travellers leave the gypsy church gathering in Seaham.
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Seaham’s leading police officer has pledged to spearhead consultation should any future travellers’ conventions be held in the town.

Inspector Darren Walton, who heads up Seaham Neighbourhood Policing Team, has said his officers and council staff have rallied round to keep order in the face of the unannounced arrival at the weekend.

Members of the Light and Life Mission, an evangelical church for gypsies and travellers, arrived on Sunday, after making contact with the landowner two weeks’ earlier - police had no prior notice of the event.

Up to 1,000 caravans were on site in a field off the B1257 between Ryhope and Seahm until yesterday, when it took most of the day for them all to leave.

Insp Walton spoke out to address rumours about disorder during the gypsy church’s visit and said reports of crime during the week have been lower than usual, but admitted there had been some cause for concern.

A claim someone had defecated in Asda was untrue, as were allegations of shoplifting, although there had been human faeces found on the beach, which Durham County Council worked to clear yesterday.

One crime was associated with the travellers, which involved children throwing stones at cars on Seaham Hall Bends.

He said: “Crime has definitely been lower since Sunday than in previous weeks.

“On Sunday, they arrived unannounced and the police officers dealt with their arrival as best as possible in the circumstances and have done so ever since.”

Of the road closures which were put in place yesterday for the travellers’ departure, he added: “Because of the logistics of moving the caravans, this was the best way to move them in an orderly manner, with road closures supervised by the police and they were well publicised.

“We appreciate there has been some low disruption to the community and there will be a debrief between the landowner, police and the council to see what has been learned.

“Any future event and their scale will be pre-planned and the community will be consulted.”