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Latitude Festival

You are in: Suffolk > Entertainment > Latitude Festival > Thieves in the night

Fence at Latitude Festival (by Jonty Dennis)

Fence surrounding the campsite

Thieves in the night

The 2007 Latitude Festival was a generally peaceful affair, with just two arrests being made. But a wave of thefts from tents left a sour taste in the mouths of the 30-40 victims, me included.

Ah, waking up on Friday morning after a good night's sleep - looking forward to the first full day's entertainment. My new ear plugs seemed to have done the trick, blocking out the young guys playing guitar until 3am in the next tent.

There's a nice breeze coming from the opened front door of my tent too. Hang on, that wasn't open when I went to sleep.

I do a quick spot check of the site: camera for work (hidden), check; mobile phone (under my pillow), check; wallet (hidden), check; backpack with iPod, chequebook (I'm not sure why I had that at the festival either) and a few pieces of clothing....nowhere to be seen.

It's obvious someone has been in my tent during the night and my fears are all but confirmed when I search the ground outside. On the floor is a receipt from my pre-festival shopping trip and a 5 note.

I guess the thief rummaged through my bag and the receipt fell on the floor, but I'm not sure what the fiver was - a tip perhaps?!

Sharing stories of the night before

Speaking to my neighbours over breakfast I discover that five other nearby tents were broken into (three on Friday morning, two the night after). The most desirable item, it seems, was cash - with trousers or shorts worn the night before being what the thief looked for first.

Burgers cooking at Latitude Festival 2007

Candlelight dinner, camping style

One neighbour woke to find somebody in his tent in the early hours of Friday morning, but the excuse of 'sorry mate, wrong tent' from the probable thief and the half conscious state of the camper meant a quick getaway was achieved.

I almost admire the audacity and skill required to tip toe into a tent whilst people are sleeping, rummage through their belongings and take the most valuable thing in sight.

That's if I didn't think they were low life scumbags.

Anyway, what gives them the right to dance around the tents like Wee Willie Winkie, and how come security allows them to get away with it?

Mean Fiddler's response

I spoke to the police after the festival and they confirmed that organisers Mean Fiddler were in charge of onsite security and that no officers were patrolling Henham Park over the weekend.

So I asked Mean Fiddler's chief executive, Melvin Benn, how the security was managed: "It was managed very well actually. Crime at the festival was down on last year.

"We had CCTV cameras, we had security patrolling, we caught people who were trying to steal etc. Quite frankly, in my view, the security was terrific.

Barriers and tents at Latitude (by Jonty Dennis)

Tents close to the campsite border

"There's always liaison with the police. But if you go out into Ipswich high street people steal from you. No matter where you live people steal from you. The police and nobody else succeeds in eradicating that."

The police confirmed that two arrests were made over the weekend - one for sexual assault and one for theft of a tabard (clothing). Both resulted in cautions.

As of the Wednesday after the festival they'd received 30 reports of thefts, with over 20 of these from tents.

I asked Melvin Benn how many instances he was aware of: "About 20. It was mainly tent thefts on the Thursday evening.

"It was presumed that it was people that specifically targeted the event that came down, whether they were local or not, with one specific intention.

"We worked really hard on the security issues and despite there was probably four or five times more people there in terms of the campsite - last year I had less than 4000 people camping, this year I had almost 20,000 people camping in the campsite.

"So despite that considerable increase in people camping there was actually less crime."

I was grateful that my bag was handed in to lost and found on Friday, minus the iPod, but obviously people who had cash stolen weren't so lucky.

I got to repay the favour when I discovered a digital camera and a tin of cigarettes beneath my tent when packing it away.

Latitude 2008

The incident won't put me off attending next year's festival but I do believe extra measures can be taken to improve security.

I arrived on site Thursday afternoon to take photos of the stages and main arena for this website before the entertainment got underway.

'Welcome to our humble abode' tent

Unless you've come to rob us

I was able to enter the main festival site and get backstage without showing a single piece of identification. I did pick up my wristband soon after.

The fences around the perimeter of the site were too easy to climb over or squeeze under, and much of this fencing was out of sight of the manned check points.

Hopefully Melvin Benn will bear this in mind when planning next year's festival, which will welcome even more people than the 2007 event.

"One can always improve and I intend to improve. But one can never eradicate theft, from any aspect of life. In all walks of ordinary life, not festival life, you can talk to people and they'll all tell you they've had various things stolen from them at various times.

"But I do intend to improve it with better CCTV coverage for instance. But overall I have to say my feeling is we got it right.

"We're definitely intending to return next year. Maybe making it a little bit bigger but nowhere near the increase that I had this year.

"Next year I'll go to a maximum of 25,000."

You can listen to the full interview with Melvin Benn using the link on the right >>
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Richard Haugh is a reporter for bbc.co.uk/suffolk

last updated: 24/07/07

Have Your Say

Is Melvin Benn right? Did they get security right at this year's Latitude Festival?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Gail H
No,my son who is 17 thoroughly enjoyed this years festival,until monday whilst packing up his tent ect had his Marco Polo(black) bag pinched containing clothes and a few personal items.I think he was obviously "targeted" as several of clothes were Diesel 55/Carhartt items,several t shirts and khaki shorts,silly really when you think about it that he should not of taken such "branded clothing". Anyway mum and dad arrive to pick him up,as you can imagine upset (and I was too) at the fact that some LOWLIFE had stolen his belongongs. I feel very sorry for whoever it was,and hope they feel really good about themselves,(you know who you are) At least next year my son will take old clothes,but has unfortunately learnt the hard way.

Rachel Cooper
i personaly feel that there could have been a much greater increase in security, the festival is getting bigger therefore the secuity should too! i myslef woke to hear my tent being opened and a man inside it, when i questioned whom they were they replyed in a shocked state "ermmm sorry love" when waking the next morning and finding that my whole campsite with my friends had experienced the very same problem with one of my friends trousers laying on the floor outside with 100 taken!

Robin
"But if you go out into Ipswich high street people steal from you." - Melvin Benn. I somehow think that's an exaggeration. Sure, crime happens, but 40 robberies in one night is a lot. Melvin Benn's overconfidence in the security of Latitude, does nothing to make up for the loss by so many people. To me, he just comes across a bit lost.

Sam
I honestly think prevention lies just as much in the hands of the festival goer as it does in the staff. Bear in mind that a deal of these kids nicking stuff from tents could just as easily be the kids that were standing around during Wilco or Damien Rice, not just career crims. There's no need to bring an ipod, three credit cards, a spare camera and a host of other valuable items that you couldn't possibly carry around with you all at once, or have to leave in the awning overnight. It's simply naive, let alone unjust grounds for criticism of the festival and its staff.

Laura
I find this shocking as i felt totally safe at latitude! It seemed so friendly i didnt even think about theft when i was there! We had possibly the biggest tents and we was on top of a small hill, so i would have thought we would have got robbed but we didnt, lucky i guess

Fin
Felt pretty safe at Latitude, happy to wander round at night, good atmosphere with people playing and singing round the campsite - was sleeping in awning of camper but there were no supiciously sober blokes with torches pretending they had blundered into the wrong tent...unlike at Connect where this happened to all the tents around us, ours included, luckily he didn't get anything from us or our friends but apparently loads of folk were not that lucky. Big very obvious police presence at Connect in arena but rubbish security from the, in the main pretty grumpy Rock Steady crew until the Saturday night (after most of the thefts) when they suddenly started checking that campers actually had wristbands. Guess it is a festival thang but there must be something that could make camping a bit safer...Latitude was all sunshine & smiles to me though...and you didn't have to yomp over a mile, up one side of a hill and down the other to get to the campsite from the cars...

Carl
I agree with Danny, you can't stop the idiots, our time at latitude was fantastic although a few friends did get robbed which put a downer on things a little. Whatever amount of security you put on you cannot stop the thefts, but you can stop yourself losing precious items just by being very careful. Just take the things to the festival that you don't mind losing, anything else keep within arms reach, Ive been to fests and been robbed too, but nothing that couldn't be replaced for a few quid. (Ipod!!! Why?????) Now I Padlock my tent, they just go straight to the next tent thats easier to get into cos they're just after a very quick in and out. I Don't mean to sound patronizing but it seems to work for me. Anyone know if the 2008 tickets are going on pre-sale???

bob
latitude was a lovely event and seems to keep the corperate machine at bay (take note V)..but its not hard to provide decent urinals and security...just a question for mr benn how vetted where the security people that were employed there cos some of them seemed well dodgy to me and rumours are rife on the latitude message boards that they were as responsible for the lack of security that they were supposed to be providing

Danny
Me and my friends witnessed no problems whatsoever, we felt pretty safe the whole weekend and we did see police about even though they were not in charge of on site security! Good job! There is always one or two idiots though, and this will never change.

Richard Greenhalgh
The risk of theft will always be there - and I'll be at Latitude 2008 as sure as I was there in 2007. I'm mystified why anyone would take an iPod to Latitude or any other such event. Cash, camera and the like I kept with me at all times - inside my sleeping bag when I was in it too. I thought Latitude 2007 was a pretty safe and incredibly friendly affair to be honest and was there from 6pm Thursday to 6am Monday.

John
Very poor security. The guys on the gates and entrances did not have a clue, as long as you waved some sort of coloured wrist band you were allowed into any area. Also very poor lighting in walkways and camp sites. A major police presence would be nice.

Justine
mnay people were walking around the campsite even at night checking out things and peoples tents. they also had those big tower things, i guess those were 4 security. in my opinion the security was very good. xx

SJ
Both my husband and I got into the camping field twice (while unloading our car) without showing any security guard our tickets.

Julian Brooks
Seems that the organiserss are more concerned with the numbers of punters than providing proper security. Didn't they want to pay for a police presence? We where stolen from as were our neighbours on Thur night this leaves a bad taste in the mouth. These little sh**s are only interested in short term financial gain with not a thought directed towards the thousands of festival goers who want to enjoy the weekend. Mr Benn, sort it out,or are you only interested in the money as well?

Sarah
Security was appalling. The best "security" we saw all weekend was a teenager in an orange vest. Our tent was slashed with a knife - so why were people not searched for weapons?Also, could the "reported" crime rate appear so low because there was no-one to report it to?We were also given false information from the stewards. Having reported our theft to the lost property tent, we were told it would be passed to the police. It wasn't. We called Suffolk police last night, and they had no record of us. Unbeliveable. SORT IT OUT.

Sue Richardson
We had no problems over the weekend but when we heard about the thefts it made us think, no one checked our tickets at the entrance to the site, so anyone could have driven in parked. Perhaps checking that all cars going in and out of the site had a legitimate reason to go in would have been a simple way to tighten security

Jimmy
Not sure where Mr Benn is getting his ridiculous statistics from. Staff were giving out incorrect information about when the police were going to be on site to take reports of thefts etc. I was told they would be there from 11-3 and when I spoke to the police they were actually going to be there from 10-11 (so one would have missed them if one had followed staff advice). People were also being advised by staff to report the thefts to their local police (rather than Suffolk Police), which would obviously affect the statistics. I reported a theft (outer and inner tent broken into while inside asleep with my young family). He seems not to care about the problem (even to bother finding out its true extent). The Police also had not, when I reported the theft to them, been receiving details of thefts which I and others had given to staff. It's a shame because so much else about the Festival was good.

Jeff Sez
Yes you could get robbed on "Ipswich High Street" but people don't tend to sleep there with their possessions! Somewhat surprised at his attitude, but Mean Fiddler were equally as unbothered when I was burgled at Reading a few years back.

Steve Loft
Although I wasn't one of the unfortunate souls who had property stolen from me at Latitude, I do have some well deserved praise for the on-site security. After packing all my (& my friend's) worldly 'festival' belongings into my car on the sunday morning and happily strolling down to the main arena, I was horrified to realise that I had lost my car keys. I frantically raced back to my car and found it locked (I was a little puzzled by this, as I was sure I'd left the keys in the door). Imagine my joy when site security arrived AT MY CAR a few moments later. After a couple of questions to check my crudentials, they returned my keys and informed me that I HAD, in fact, left them in the door. They had kindly locked the car and awaited my return. Well done guys & thank you!

Jen
Our camp was hit on friday, someone lost cash etc and a couple more people had a "sorry wrong tent" incident. Apparently it was a guy who had big ears and looked like a monkey..! anyone else spot him?? lol

gillian hill
i cant comment re security but i can about the camping facilities. woefully inadequate no of loos, showers that only worked for two days,not enough bins and fires being lit and left unatteded all over the site.

Mike Kite
I thought security was very good at the festival, a total of 30 crimes amongst over 20,000 people in an environment that naturally attracts criminals who pray on innocent people in vunerable circumstances. 30 crimes seem very low to me!!!!!!

Sidney Moore
after the 'unexpected' thefts last year and complete lack of co-operation with the police, who actually wanted a present onsite, i believe MF SHOULD have had more of a presence on site... even just Gainsborough or one of the hired security firms. If there appears to be no-one spot checking or any threat of bogus tents then of course people are going to chance stealing!

Claire
I returned to my tent on Thursday night to find a man in my tent - sorry love wrong tent. Yeah right! We got onto the site and to the tent without having to show a ticket too.

emilia
i dont really like Melvin Benn's attitude towards to security issue. althought luckly my group of 11 didnt have anything stolen, reading through the latitude website forum you can see that theft was a major issue. the only tight security we experienced was when they were thoroughly checking for alcohol being taken into the main arena. apart from that we saw no police officers and rarely saw any security patrols.for piece of mind i would definitely like the flimsy fencing improved next year and at least some form of police patrol.apart from this latitude was amazing and i will definitely be getting a ticket for new year- with a sharp eye on the security plans. i would be happy to pay an extra 5 pounds if it meant greater safety within the venue.

cath
The lack of sufficient showering facilities and poor security for campers spoilt an otherwise excellent festival

Rick D
30 - 40 victims? add another 0 to the end and you may get a more accurate figure. I was in one of the 10 or so camping areas and we had over 30 robberies on the first night. Myself included.

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