EMERGENCY services are pulling out all the stops to ensure the Halloween and Bonfire Night celebrations are not blighted by rocketing levels of anti-social behaviour.
Operation Treacle, a joint campaign involving the police and fire services, Wigan Council, Wigan and Leigh Housing, Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) and Wigan Athletic Community Trust, will once again run over the next few weeks to raise awareness of the consequences of causing trouble.
Officers gave a special assembly to pupils at Hindley High School to launch the campaign, which aims to crack down on a range of anti-social and criminal activities, from throwing fireworks to knocking on the doors of vulnerable people while trick or treating to making hoax calls.
Operation Treacle has led to significant reductions in bonfire-related nuisance behaviour in Wigan over the past five years, with the council receiving 16 complaints last year compared to 44 in 2009, and the police receiving just 13 calls in 2011, down from 42 in 2008.
The campaign is also supported by safe4autumn.com, a website encouraging young people to get involved in positive activities and attend organised firework displays.
Fire service borough manager Steve Sheridan said: “This campaign is not just about enforcement, but also about reducing the kind of injuries caused by recklessness and stupidity.
“We don’t want to be killjoys, but too many people forget to follow basic safety advice. That’s why our website and school talks don’t pull any punches graphically.”
Supt Andrea Jones from GMP Wigan division said: “We see a seasonal spike in anti-social behaviour during this period, ranging from silly pranks to serious incidents of criminal damage.
“These cause distress, expense and inconvenience to communities, and we will not tolerate it.
“We don’t want to put a dampener on people having fun but we are cracking down on offending behaviour.”
Organisations across Wigan, including the council, WLCT and the Nowt2Do project based in Tyldesley will put on a range of activities for young people, many of them free.
For more information visit www.wigan.gov.uk/safe4autumn and on the Linc Website via www.wlct.org.uk