Chief Superintendent Tim Forber, Oldham Divisional Commander was the guest speaker at the Saddleworth Homewatch meeting on Wednesday 16th November 2011.
He started his address talking about policing in Oldham and explained that in such a socially diverse town with a rising population there are many challenges. Performance last year was good with challenging targets being set for this year. He said that there are significant problems with drugs, alcohol and mental health issues and that these are areas that will be targeted in the future. Across the Borough, there has been a reduction in violent crime and anti-social behaviour with Saddleworth showing the biggest reduction in anti-social behaviour.
He said that the public’s perception of the police has improved and he felt the key reason for this is the quality of neighbourhood policing which is particularly good in Saddleworth. He said that he wanted to strengthen neighbourhood policing and make that the main form of policing across the borough.
Chief Superintendent Forber said that the police are partnering with other agencies such as Oldham Council, the Department for Welfare and Pensions, the Tax Office in a drive to reduce and disrupt criminal activity in the Borough. He said that key partnerships had already had an impact on anti-social behaviour.
The Chief Superintendent said that we are looking at difficult times ahead. From a period of expansion the police now have to make significant cuts. It costs £700 million a year to police Greater Manchester but it will shortly have to cost £134 million less and with 81% going on staff wages and it can only mean jobs will have to go. He said that GMP will have to shrink significantly over the next few years and the challenge for the police is maintaining the same levels of service. He said that there are several ways in which this can be achieved. GMP is currently reducing support staff numbers and staff leaving the force are not being replaced. One of the first posts to go as a result of these changes is the Homewatch Co-ordinator.
£50 million pounds has been removed from the budget this year by reducing the support for front line policing but front line policing will only be cut as a last resort. A corporate model has been developed and is being applied to each area in GMP.
Chief Superintendent Forber said that enquiry counters would be affected and he acknowledged that this would be an emotive issue. There are currently five across the Oldham Division which according to him is too many for the size of the area. With only eight visitors a day it as been decided that the counter at Uppermill will close but police will continue to use the building.
Diggle News asked the Chief Superintendent if, following a £134 million in cuts, it would be possible to preserve current levels of front line policing. He said that it is really for the government to make their decisions around the levels of policing and to decide whether we have sufficient to deal with events in the future.
Diggle News pointed out that there had been an announcement regarding the cancellation of the Beer Walk due to the high cost of policing. The Chief Superintendent said that the police support a significant number of community events in Saddleworth. The decision to cancel the Beer Walk had been made by the organisers. The event has been policed as a neighbourhood policing operation for many years but has grown significantly and the level of crime and disorder has grown too. Last year there was a serious assault with a police sergeant receiving two cracked ribs, bottles were thrown in the streets and people were seen urinating in public places. He went on to say that he had not refused to police the event but if it was to run this year, it would need a significant policing operation to manage it. He went on to say that intoxicated people spread over an eleven mile route takes a significant level of policing. If people want to organise an event that is likely to lead to crime and disorder then they will have to pay the policing costs.
A member of Homewatch group said that that he had, as a resident, seen the Beer Walk many times over the years. He said that it had always been enjoyable with people taking a lot of pleasure from it but this year he had noticed that many people were too drunk to enter into the spirit of the event.
Reported crime in Diggle, September 2011
3 Burglaries, 2 Anti-social behaviour, 3 Vehicle crime, 1 Criminal damage, 3 Other theft.