Meters Targetted Again

Vandals in a prosperous market town have restarted their dangerous campaign of blowing up parking meters for the eighth year running.

Two pay and display machines in Lewes, East Sussex, had fireworks set off in the coin slots overnight, resulting in damage totalling £2,900, Sussex Police said.

Similar incidents have been reported in the county town every year since 2004. Fourteen parking meters were blown up between September and November last year, causing more than £20,000 of damage.

Police have warned that they are stepping up patrols amid fears that someone could be maimed. A £1,250 reward offered by police and local councils remains on the table.

Chief Inspector Jason Tingley, the Lewes district commander, said: "I find it difficult to understand why anyone would be so reckless as to carry out such potentially dangerous acts.

"I'm amazed that someone hasn't been injured. This amounts to a serious spree of costly vandalism.

"We are warning the culprits that we are still determined to find out who is responsible. Someone knows who is doing this and it is important that they help us put a stop to it now before someone gets seriously injured.

"We will be stepping up patrols and I would ask the community to be vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour.''

The attacks in Lewes - famous for its large annual Guy Fawkes Night display - started eight years ago after the local council introduced on-street parking charges following complaints of congestion in the town's narrow streets.

In the two years that followed, the culprits caused £300,000 damage by destroying more than 200 meters, leading to higher permit charges and increased pay and display parking costs for residents and visitors.

Now it appears the dangerous and costly campaign has been renewed again, with two machines - in Phoenix Place and Friars Walk - being damaged. A traffic warden discovered the damage today.

Councillor Carl Maynard, of East Sussex County Council, said: "Whoever committed these mindless crimes should know they risk jail. As well as the potential to seriously injure a passer-by, this vandalism costs the people of Lewes, who end up footing the bill.''

Councillor James Page, leader of Lewes District Council, said: "We fully support the police in their call for information. This vandalism is dangerous and we do not want to see anyone hurt as a result of thoughtless action. There are also additional costs incurred when meters have to be replaced and revenue is lost.''

Anyone with information is asked to call Sussex Police on 101, quoting Operation Cohesion, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.