CONCERNS surrounding a surge of crime in Wantage led to a public meeting to ease the community’s fears.

A recently established Facebook group called ‘Stop the Wantage and local area robberies’ - which highlights various crimes in the town and the surrounding areas - quickly amassed more than 2,000 members.

When deputy police and crime commissioner Matthew Barber became aware of the group, he sought to meet with people in the town and offer an accurate picture of crime in the area.

Mr Barber told the Oxford Mail: “There was a lot of chat on this group so I joined up as a member. I saw that there was a bit of disgruntlement, a lot of people getting themselves excited.

“Some people had justifiable concerns and some others had misinformation.

“Nobody is pretending there hasn’t been an increase in certain types crime but there was a little bit of a need to dispel some myths.”

Mr Barber said that one of the genuine issues was a rise in burglaries across the South and Vale area.

However, he noted that the amount of burglaries in the area was roughly one a day - and still likely lower per capita than other areas in the Thames Valley.

Though the title specifically mentions ‘robberies’, the Facebook group that prompted the meeting covers a wide range of different crimes.

Discussions include a recent sexual assault that is alleged to have occurred in Wantage.

People have used the group to post about stolen bikes or suspicious vehicles, traveller camps on public land, as well as posting information released by the police regarding ongoing investigations.

One post, written as an open letter to Wantage MP Ed Vaizey following the reports of sexual assault, said: “How much more crime has to be bestowed upon Wantage before you, our member of Parliament, does something?

“We rely on you to get our voices heard.

“We read time and time again, via social media, what’s going on in Wantage yet we still have no no back up from the police or you as our voice.”

Between 50 and 60 people attended the meeting last week.

The event, at the Beacon, was also attended by superintendent Rory Freeman, the area commander for South and Vale, and a representative of Mr Vaizey.

Mr Barber, whose role as deputy police commissioner for the Thames Valley under Anthony Stansfeld became full time last month, said: “Generally speaking most people were glad to have their concerns heard.

“Issues raised at the meeting ranged and included stuff around robberies and burglaries, police visibility and parking issues.

“And I think people were pleased to hear about what police are doing.”

Mr Barber emphasised that a great deal of police effort was done behind the scenes and that the meeting served as an opportunity

He continued: “It’s quite interesting that some of the public perception of the police is that they don’t do anything or that they don’t care.

“But there is a lot of work that is going on.”

Police in Oxfordshire named burglary one of their top priorities at the beginning of the year, alongside county lines drug dealing and rural crime like hare coursing.

The challenge of burglary in the city is much greater than in rural areas.

There are roughly two burglaries per day in Oxford.