CONCERNS have been raised people are taking advantage of a "lack of police presence" after a wave of thefts and criminal damage in the Manningtree area.

A police report given to the latest Lawford Parish Council meeting on Monday showed 18 crimes across the three parishes of Manningtree, Mistley and Lawford in March.

All but one of those incidents, which was an assault, were reports of theft or criminal damage.

Councillor Jenine Collier said: "Is it because people know there's no police presence in the area now?

"I haven't seen any police presence for weeks."

The three parishes are set to lose their two dedicated PCSOs after match-funding was scrapped by Essex Police.

A spokesman for Essex Police disputed claims there was a lack of officer presence and said the number of crimes was stable in the area with just three more this March compared to the same frame time last year.

"There is a police presence there every single day of the week," he said.