It might be forgivable for the occasional young scamp to roam local fields and forests armed with a catapult, but in one Surrey village matters have taken a decidedly nasty turn.
Residents in Stanwell have been forced to don cycle helmets when leaving their homes simply to protect themselves from the barrage of rocks and stones being lobbed in their direction.
The villagers say they feel “under siege” and are too scared to park their cars outside their properties or even open their windows in the heatwave, as a result of being targeted by the mystery assailant.
Police have resorted to sending up a drone in an attempt to identify the attacker, who has already caused significant damage to property.
Neighbourhood Sergeant Paul Grinter, of Surrey Police, said: "The residents cannot enjoy their gardens, cannot open their windows and cannot park outside their homes. They are under siege.
"They live in fear of being hit by one of these missiles, which have already caused substantial criminal damage to property, and some have taken to wearing cycle helmets when they leave the house.
"It is only a matter of time before someone is injured."
On Monday, police who attended Stanwell’s Russell Drive were met with a barrage of rocks. One of the projectiles smashed a marked police car’s wing mirror, while another landed a few centimetres away from an officer.
Police were also targeted when attending a call out on Monday, receiving a smashed mirror from an as-yet unknown assailant
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Sgt Grinter said: "We believe these stones are being fired at random from the nature reserve behind the houses, often two or three stones at a time. We have spoken with several residents who are naturally very worried and concerned over the incidents."
The Safer Neighbourhood team in the village (where homes sell for an average of £410,000) have mounted daily patrols to help police catch the culprit.
There have been previous problems with catapults in the village. Last year a group of boys were spotted deliberately targeting swans on the Duke of Northumberland and Longford Rivers, known locally as the Twin Rivers.
Sgt Grinter added: "I would urge those responsible to stop, immediately. Catapults are not toys: if you are carrying a catapult with intent to cause injury, it counts as an offensive weapon.
"I would also ask anyone who walks on the nature reserve to be extra vigilant and report any concerns to police. If you see anyone firing projectiles from the reserve, dial 999 immediately."