A search by police in North Swindon for criminals who were cutting through vehicles ABS braking cables and telephone wires have concluded local squirrels are to blame for the uniquely anti-social behaviour.
In total, seven reports of vehicles having their cables cut were received in the second half of September in roads off Elsham Way in Abbey Meads, including Oberon Way, Henman Close, Ray Close and Lyme Way – close to the tree lined Sevenfields Nature Reserve.
Inspector for North Swindon Pete Chamberlain said on 1 October, "Neighbourhood Policing Teams are currently engaging with the communities where these incidents have taken place to ensure they are both aware of the reports and also aware what to do if their vehicles have been targeted. Importantly there is no immediate danger to people if they use their vehicles and find that their ABS cables have been damaged. A warning light should appear on the dash if they have been damaged but general braking will be normal. However, people should be careful if braking heavily especially in wet conditions."
Since that time, telephone cables leading to homes have been damaged. A police public relations said, "additional forensic examinations has taken place and it is now apparent that the damage to the ABS cables and the domestic telephone wires was caused by squirrels, and not as the result of deliberate criminal damage.
"High visibility police patrols were carried out, and many local residents spoken to, and those residents have confirmed a recent increase in squirrel activity in those areas."
A spokesman for the RSPCA said, "squirrels do have a tendency to chew through wires of all sorts. It is important however that members of the public do not try to catch the squirrels and take the law into their own hands. Squirrels may well bite if cornered which may result in a hospital visit or at least a tetanus jab."
Insp Chamberlain stated, "we are looking to work with Swindon Borough Council’s Pest Control officers to try and deal with this issue. It is not only ABS Cables that the rodents have attacked but several telephone wires in the area so people’s lives have been affected in many ways."
Marilyn Beale, Secretary of the Penhill Forum denied that the grey bushy tailed troublemakers are anything to do with her area. She said, "I can honestly say that our squirrels do not go around causing criminal damage in areas other than our own. Even then they confine their bad behaviour to nicking the birds nuts and burying them in gardens.
"Our PCSO’s ‘Police Community Squirrel Officers’ have visited all local parents displaying fluffy tails and pointed out the error of their offspring’s ways. This is what comes of living in range of a Local Nature Reserve. I understand paprika is the thing to put down to deter the culprits."
For more information on the Nature Reserve go to www.sevenfields.org.uk Search for Sevenfields on Facebook.
However he added that the police are keen to know of any humans acting suspiciously. Call Wiltshire Police on 0845 408 7000. Alternatively people can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be left anonymously if they wish.