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Inspector Cook gives crime prevention advice at community meeting

by Iain Roberts on 28 July, 2015

Inspector Neil Cook

Monday night saw a well-attended community meeting about crime, with local councillors and residents joined by Inspector Neil Cook from the Stockport West police.

The meeting was organised by the Lib Dem team and hosted by Cheadle Muslim Association, who even laid on tea and biscuits. It followed concerns being raised, particularly on the local Facebook groups, about crime levels.

Three years ago someone could have been trying car doors at the end of my street and I’d probably never have known about it, but now if it happens on the other side of Cheadle I know within hours.

Figuring out whether crime has really gone up, or whether I just know about more crimes thanks to social media isn’t easy – and that’s something I hoped the meeting would help with.

Overall, Stockport West is the 3rd safest of the 28 Police Neighbourhood Areas in Greater Manchester and reported crime has risen by 4% (though that’s partly due to changes in recording).

Car crime

Over the last year there’s actually been a 12% fall in reported car crime in our area (though that could be fewer people reporting it – we don’t know for sure). Although hi-tech vehicle crimes get more news, Inspector Cook told us that it’s the simple methods being used locally. There are three identified offenders (one has been arrested and charged recently) and they will simply go to a road and try every car door handle in the street until they find one that’s open.

Breaking a window to steal a car is rarer (because the police can get forensics from the broken glass). Some car thefts use the “hook and cane” method where the criminal hooks car keys left near an open window or a door with a letterbox in the house.

Between a quarter and three-quarters of all car crimes happen when the car is left unlocked.

The advice on car crime is:

  • always, always lock your car.
  • don’t leave anything on display in the car
  • a simple steering wheel lock is still effective
  • don’t leave car keys near to the front door or window where they can be “hooked”

Burglary

Police figures show that reported burglaries have fallen by 6% in the last year but it’s still a big issue (and even if it is falling, that’s no consolation if you’re burgled).

Neighbourhood Watch works, says Inspector Cook. Not so much the signs, but simply people being more aware and looking out for each other. If you’re a member of an active Neighbourhood Watch, you are more than 30% less likely to be burgled than if you’re not – that’s a big difference. You can find out if there’s already a local Neighbourhood Watch, or sign up to form your own, here.

All the normal, sensible advice still holds: it’s the simple things. Close windows and lock doors at night or when you’re out. Leave a light on at night. Lock side gates. Don’t leave garden tools lying around. Vibration alarms on windows are cheap and easy to fit.

We’ve all heard tales of chalk marks being used to identify houses to rob. Inspector Cook says that’s very rare in his experience. One thing he’s seen in Bramhall recently is thieves putting a stone on a wheel of every car along a road. If the stone is still there a few days later, the thieves can be confident the family is away. If you spot this, report it to the police (and perhaps knock the stones off!).

Bobbies on the beat

Most of us have got the feeling that there aren’t so many bobbies on the beat as there used to be – and we’re right. In Stockport West there are 14 beats to cover. To have one PCSO on duty per beat for each shift (days and lates) would require 56 PCSOs (and that’s before time off and leave). In fact, Inspector Cook has just 15 PCSOs to cover not just patrols but also community events and surgeries. All the evidence, Inspector Cook told us, was that although patrols help us feel safer, they don’t actually stop or solve crimes – so when deciding where to put stretched resources, there’s a balance to be struck. At any one time there are probably no more than eight officers covering the Stockport West area, and that includes patrols, community work and crime investigations.

It’s a similar story with night cover. Night operations can be run, but police working nights can’t progress with investigations to solve crimes or cover the day shifts.

If you phone the police about a crime or suspected crime and they don’t attend, it’s probably because there’s something more serious they’re going to and they don’t have the staffing to do both.

Working with the community

The Police have always relied on the public to help prevent and solve crimes, and today that’s true more than ever with budgets being stretched (and set to be cut a lot further, as George Osborne announced last week). It’s why Neighbourhood Watch works well and why I think the Facebook groups and social media can do a lot of good, if we can figure out how to best use them.

Across Stockport, people say they are very likely to report a crime they’ve witnessed (94-100%) and to report suspicious activity.

There’s one odd figure though. When asked whether they would work with the police to solve problems, people in most areas overwhelmingly said yes. In Gatley the figure was 97%, Heald Green 96% and Cheadle Hulme 93%. In Cheadle, for some reason, the number was much lower – just 54%. We don’t know why that number is so much lower than elsewhere (the next lowest is Brinnington with 64%). We don’t know whether it’s a real issue with working with police, or some problem with the data that doesn’t reflect reality.

Whether the figure is real or not, it reminds us that the Police have never been able to do it on their own and they can’t now. They rely on the public to spot suspicious behaviour, report crimes, look out for our neighbours, identify suspects, give evidence and take sensible measures to secure our property – we all need to do our bit.

   8 Comments

8 Responses

  1. Pete Smith says:

    Thanks for the information, very welcome to hear what the police have to say, and to know they listen to our concerns.
    And for what it’s worth, I live on the border of cheadle and cheadle Hulme, (Queens Road) and myself and my family, and the near neighbours I know, would certainly get involved with helping the police in any way we can, to tackle crime.

  2. Les Leckie says:

    All very sensible advice. All we have to do is follow it. I have confidence that our police force is doing what it can within its resources. They won’t be getting any more anytime soon. It’s up to us to assist them all we can. Stop thinking of ourselves as potential victims of crime. Sadly, that is being reinforced every day by social media.

  3. Jane says:

    With around 6,000 members on the Cheadle Group & around 1,500 on the Gatley Group, my daughter & I turned up at 7pm for the 7.30pm meeting totally expecting to have a problem parking, particularly as you constantly read on both groups people’s concern about crime in the area & how something needs to be done.

    I read people encouraging others to ring 101 with anything even remotely suspicious so that the police have higher figures & will increase patrols etc. I’ve even read people suggesting vigilante groups so I was somewhat surprised that there was only about 18 people at the meeting!

    I think 4 of them were from the council, one chief inspector & me & my daughter (who haven’t even been affected by any crime in the two years we’ve lived here) & that leaves just 11 other people that turned up.

    It was an interesting & informative meeting, held because of people’s concerns, where was everybody??

    • Alan Gent says:

      Jane, not even sure what you mean by 6000 members of the Cheadle Group. Are we all automatically “enroled” in this group by virtue of where we live?

      Alan

      • Jane says:

        Morning Alan,
        I am talking about the cheadle SK8 facebook group. It is a closed group. In fact, currently there are 6,362 members registered.

        • Alan Gent says:

          Ah that explains it, I don’t do Facebook. But not very impressive is it, you must have hoped for better?

  4. Iain Roberts says:

    We tend to find that getting people to public meetings is more difficult these days (and in this case it was one we were asked to organise, not just us deciding to do it). We advertised it on the Cheadle and Gatley facebook pages and via our weekly email last week.

    We had the sort of turnout I expected, maybe slightly lower but not a lot.

    That could be because people aren’t that worried about crime in reality, or maybe we needed to do more to promote the event. Or perhaps people are just less willing to come to meetings when everything’s online. We may have had only 18 members of the public at the meeting, but more than 450 have read this page in the last 5 days.

  5. David Maycock says:

    only just read this article but surely the police should know why the figures for Cheadle and Brinnington are poor, they are council estates where you can get reprisals if you say anything. I used to live in Wythenshawe. i know its sounds a bit labeling but that is the downside of being a council tenant.
    My father and brother in Wythenshawe had trouble for years later in there life with young kids and got no help.

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