Extra police patrols at Southsea Model Village as staff say vandalism is 'kick in the teeth'

POLICE are patrolling the area around Southsea Model Village after vandals struck twice in as many days.

By Emily Jessica Turner
Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 6:49 pm

Staff and volunteers at Southsea Model Village are picking up the pieces after a spate of break-ins – and Portsmouth City Council said it is ‘horrified’ by news of the vandalism.

The attraction suffered two break-ins in the space of two days.

Three youths were caught on CCTV entering the site at 6.20pm on Monday evening, only one day after yobs trashed the model village in what owner Mark Wilson called the ‘worst’ spate of vandalism the site had seen.

Assistant manager, Harry Wilson, Janet Neil, Phyllis and Ian Wilson with some of the damaged miniature figures at Southsea Model Village. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The previous break-in, which occurred at around 4.30am on Sunday, saw three men and a woman vandalising the village and throwing items at each other.

Southsea Model Village is run by four owners - couple Mark and Emma Wilson, who took over in 2016 along with Mark’s brother Dean Wilson and his wife, Amy.

Harry Wilson, nephew of Mark and Dean, is assistant manager and has worked at the model village for six years.

Portsmouth police confirmed they would be ‘carrying out dedicated patrols’.

Southsea Model Village, Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

He told The News: ‘It’s just horrible, we put so much work into the place and because of Covid we haven’t been open very long, so when this happens, it’s a bit of a kick in the face.’

Ian and Phyllis Wilson are parents of Mark and Dean and volunteer at the model village as model makers. They created six new shops for the display during lockdown.

Phyllis said: ‘The windows on some of the other buildings have been smashed in, we have to do those again.

‘If the new shops had been damaged, we would have been really upset.’

Some of the damaged miniature figures at Southsea Model Village. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Portsmouth City Council said that it has made community wardens aware of anti-social behaviour happening in the Rose Garden, which adjoins the model village, and that they will be increasing patrols of the area.

A council statement said: ‘Like everyone else, we are horrified about the break-ins and vandalism at the Model Village, just at the time when lots of families are looking forward to visiting our much-loved local attractions again.

‘The council has assisted the business owners in carrying out security reviews of the boundary that the business is responsible for and recently replaced the fence that borders the Rose Garden, as well as planting some prickly shrubs that should help deter unauthorised access.

‘We are working with the Model Village to make any further adjustments necessary to council maintained boundaries in order to help improve the overall security.’

Some of the damaged miniature figures at Southsea Model Village. Picture: Habibur Rahman

A community fundraiser has been set up by volunteer Brian Le Blond to raise money for CCTV and pay to replace damaged items.

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Co-owner Emma said: ‘The support from the community has been overwhelming. It’s amazing.

‘Seeing the people last night on the camera, they seemed so young. To be honest, I feel almost sorry for them.

Janet Neil, the previous owner and mother of Emma, said: ‘It’s a popular little resort, we welcome a lot of the locals here. We’re loved by many.

‘We get visits from people who know there is someone here to talk to.

‘It’s been an ongoing thing for the last 20 years. There’s CCTV but that doesn’t stop the culprits getting in.’

Southsea Model Village is repeatedly targeted by vandals. Staff noted that it is two years ago to the week that the model village’s resident cat, Rooney, was kicked by an intruder - an attack that was also caught on CCTV.

Mick Bright, who has been a volunteer at the model village for around 15 years, said: ‘I look after the trains. The best thing is getting to see the smiles on the children’s faces.

‘We never stop repairing and painting everything, it’s like the Forth Bridge. I have always got trains I am working on.

‘It’s so devastating when we spend so much time doing the work.

‘We have also got the weather to contend with. It’s a constant battle.

‘It keeps us busy but it’s worth it when we see happy faces.’

Police are appealing for more information about the break-ins.

A Hampshire Constabulary statement said: ‘We were called shortly after 9.10pm on Monday, May 24 to a report that Southsea Model Village had been broken into at around 6.20pm.

‘Nothing is believed to have been taken or damaged at this time.

‘This follows a report of a break-in at the same location sometime between 4.30pm on Saturday, May 22 and 9am on Sunday, May 23.

‘On this instance damage was caused to the model village and a number of figures were reported as stolen.

‘Both incidents are under investigation and officers remain in the area today conducting enquiries.

‘In addition, our neighbourhood policing teams will be carrying out dedicated patrols, as well as working alongside our partners on a joined-up response to anti-social behaviour at this location under Operation Nautical.

‘We would like to hear from anyone who thinks they might know who was involved or has any information that could help our investigation. Please get in touch by calling 101 quoting 44210199296/44210201490.’

To donate to the fundraiser, click here.