Manchester England March 14 2018 Private security guards have been hired to patrol Stockport town centre every day – to make up for the shortfall in police officers.
Totally Stockport, a group set up to promote businesses in the area, have employed four guards who work seven days a week from 5pm to 1am.
They began on March 5 and patrol areas including the new Redrock leisure development, the Market Place, the Peel Centre and the Underbanks.
It is part of a range of measures Totally Stockport has introduced to prioritise ‘safety and security’ in the town centre in a bid to prevent issues such as theft and anti-social-behaviour.
Police have said on recent weekends they have increased their own patrols to deal with anti-social behaviour and fighting in the area, particularly on Wellington Road South.
Helen White, from Totally Stockport, said: “As police are under so much pressure and have resource challenges they have to prioritise.
“When they get crimes to investigate those that affect retailers and businesses are the kind of crimes that aren’t quite top priority.
“Also anti-social behaviour, groups of youths can be quite intimidating so we thought we would make things safe and secure by hiring our own security guards.
“There is a lot of investment in the evening economy and we want people to feel safe and know that others are looking out for them.”
A business watch group – similar to a residential home watch – has been set up with help from police.
It meets monthly to share information, identify issues and priorities and discuss the gathering of intelligence to combat any crime and disorder.
There is also a storenet radio system that links shops in the business watch scheme to each other and security guards.
It is used to share intelligence, warn of the whereabouts of shoplifters and inform of any disorder taking place.
Helen added: “We are working closely with police to support the town centre team and to provide them with a town centre base.
“The safety and security of everyone who works, lives in or visits Stockport town centre is a priority.”
A Stockport police spokesman said: “If we can work with other agencies and partners to help police do their job we will.
“As a force we have to accept if someone else hires their own legitimate security this is appropriate. We encourage people to think of their own security.
“We have officers allocated to the town centre but if things happen elsewhere they may be taken away to the other priority.”
Greater Manchester Police lost 2,000 officers between 2011 and last year – leaving numbers at the ‘lower end of reasonable’, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said last May. And back in 2015, he said officers couldn’t be expected to attend every ‘routine incident’.
‘You don’t see the police now’
The M.E.N. went to Stockport to speak to shoppers about anti-social behaviour and crime in the town centre.
Many of you told us you thought anti-social behaviour was a problem, or that you avoided Stockport town centre altogether in the evenings.
Here is what some people had to say about Totally Stockport’s private security initiative.
Beryl Hyde, 79, who lives near Stockport town centre, said: “You don’t see the police now. “Businesses and private firms shouldn’t have to pay for security guards. The council should pay for it.
“Saying that I don’t think anti-social behaviour is that bad in the town. You don’t see it that often.
“But I still don’t think businesses should have to pay for it. They never used to.”
Grace Kozij, 18, from Stockport, said: “Sometimes I don’t feel safe in parts of Stockport.
“You do get a lot of young people hanging around at the bus station. I wouldn’t go down there at night.
“It seems like there are rules that aren’t always followed. Anything to make those parts of the town centre feel safer is a good thing.”
Annie Hustler, 76, from Woodley, said: “I think crime varies depending on what’s going on. Sometimes people have had a lot to drink.
“But when I come into the town centre I don’t see too much because I only come down in the daytime.
“I think it’s good something is being done to make the town centre more safe, but I also think we pay our taxes for [police] patrols.
“It all goes back to Government in some form or another and they just do less and less.
“I do think the scheme will benefit the town centre because some people don’t even want to come to the town centre.”
Richard Everett, 82, from Bredbury, said: “I do think you have to be on your guard in the town centre.
“There is a lot of anti-social behaviour in the evenings and the police have no power to do anything about it.
“It’s not any different here to other parts like Oldham or Ashton. I think private security guards are a good idea if they make the area more safe.
“We need more police on the beat. I’ve not seen some police around here for more than two years. It’s not their fault but I never see them.”