Portsmouth police move to calm fears over 'rare' dog thefts amid prospect of 'vigilante' groups taking law into own hands

POLICE have moved to calm fears over ‘rare’ dog thefts amid the prospect of ‘vigilante’ groups taking the law into their own hands.

Officers in Portsmouth said social media comments were at odds with the reality of the situation and said there had only been ‘two reports of attempted dog thefts by a stranger and no reports of actual dog theft by a stranger’.

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As reported, dog owner Charlene Gibbs said she was approached by a man on Fawcett Road, Southsea, on January 22 at 6.30pm. He asked what breed her French bulldog Nellie was near the Fawcett Inn pub.

Charlene scooped up Nellie and fled before calling 101 when it was safe after she had been followed in the car. ‘It was very frightening and I won’t be walking out at this time again,’ she said.

The incident followed an ambush that saw a ‘reluctant hero’ dog owner fighting off knife-wielding would-be thieves in Knowle Road, Knowle, on January 2.

Social media has been rife with concern about dog thefts.

The issue has been raised to Hampshire’s Police and Crime Panel by member Lee Hunt, a city councillor.

French bulldog Nellie was targeted by a suspected dog thief in Southsea on January 22.

‘It's a worrying issue being increasingly highlighted on social media with many upset and anxious owners,’ he said.

But Portsmouth police insisted such crimes are not common.

‘We are aware of the current social media attention around dog thefts and your concerns in relation to this,’ a post on social media said.

‘Dog thefts, thankfully, are rare – where they do occur they are appalling crimes that cause huge amounts of stress and anguish to owners.

‘We are very often asked what we are doing about dog thefts, which is a difficult question to answer because we are simply not seeing them reported, or at least nowhere near the scale that people are currently concerned about.

‘To give you an idea of what we’re currently seeing, in the past year we have only had two reports of attempted dog theft by a stranger in Portsmouth, and no reports of actual dog theft by a stranger.’

The post added: ‘A lot of the concern appears however to stem from social media. Many of these posts are created and shared with good intentions, but may actually cause undue concern and distress.

‘Dogs are not being routinely stolen from across the city as some of these posts appear to indicate.’

Police asked anyone who has been a victim of a dog theft or suspicious activity which has not yet been reported to call 101 or 999 if in immediate danger or report online at www.hampshire.police.uk.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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