POLICE chiefs fielded questions from dozens of Wiganers at the latest police commissioner public meeting.
Issues such as the effect of budget cuts on front line policing, the number of disability hate crime incidents and changes to neighbourhood policing schemes were raised from the floor at the consultation held in the council chamber.
On the panel were Greater Manchester’s first Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Tony Lloyd, Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy and Wigan Division’s Ch Supt Shaun Donnellan.
PCC Lloyd, who recently unveiled the draft version of his first police and crime plan, was keen to stress that he would work to prevent police budget cuts from affecting front line policing.
Speaking after the meeting, he said: “We have an improving police service here in Wigan and across Greater Manchester and we want to preserve that.
“The turnouts at these meetings, including tonight’s in Wigan, show that people are genuinely interested in the issues around policing and in particular community safety.
“We want an informed public, the Homewatch schemes are of vital importance, when things go wrong it is the people in the community who find out about things first, the police depend on that.”
The Evening Post reported earlier this year that crime rates across the borough have seen a near 10 per cent drop in the past 12 months.
And both Mr Lloyd and Sir Peter Fahy stressed the important role played by PCSOs in conjunction with neighbourhood policing schemes. Last month GMP announced a restructure of the schemes, meaning more decisions would be taken at a local level and CID officers would be working alongside their neighbourhood counterparts.
Sir Peter Fahy said: “We’ve made it clear that PCSOs are the one part of the force that hasn’t been reduced, it’s the bedrock of what we do. The local connection with the public is really important.
“I think people are concerned about the impact of the cuts to frontline policing, the policing of community events and dealing with hate crimes against vulnerable groups.
“These are the issues that have been common themes at the meetings and we’re trying to reassure people that even though times are hard and we’ve lost staff, on the other hand we have made changes and we will maintain our service to the public.”
In addition to the questions posed from the more than 70 strong gathering, the senior officers also answered queries from residents following the meeting online using social networking sites.
Sir Fahy added: “We’re being realistic, we know that not everyone would want to come to a public meeting.
“It is important myself and Tony make ourselves available to the public.”