Youths damage stalls before attacking trader and police officer at Wigan markets
A large group of youths ran amok in Wigan’s market and a shopping centre in a disturbance which saw a trader and police officer attacked.
Alarmed stallholders and opposition councillors are now demanding major security improvements following the rampage while Wigan Council has had to defend its arrangements for keeping the town centre safe.
Trouble began in the indoor market in Wigan town centre last Friday evening when up to 15 young people began damaging stalls and behaving obnoxiously.
When florist Dave Martin tried to clear them from around his business a group of several youths surrounded him and he was punched in the face.
Security were called and PCSOs also attended, but shortly afterwards more problems flared up in The Galleries Shopping Centre, leading to further police being requested.
It is understood one of the teenagers, who had refused a drug search, then struck an officer and was arrested.
Traders say this anti-social behaviour needs clamping down on and there has also been allegations Wigan Council has not done enough to protect stallholders.
However, the local authority says it takes safety for retail workers extremely seriously and is working to ensure those responsible for the shameful incidents are punished.
Mr Martin, who has worked on the market for three decades, said he had to use a metal bar to hand to defend himself.
He said: “It’s getting out of hand with young kids kicking round the market and ganging up causing problems.
“They were sat on the flower table as I was trying to pack up. I told them to move and they started hitting me. There was a bar for winding the stall up so I used that to fend them off.
“I’m not an aggressive person, but I’m not letting kids of that age intimidate me.”
Wigan Market Traders Association co-chairman Mike O’Connor said: “It all started in the market and then spilled out into the alleyway leading to the square. Dave has ended up having these youths setting about him.
“We’ve had problems with lights on stalls in the square being smashed after traders have gone and we’ve had bars getting bent from them swinging on it. It’s just wanton destruction.
There’s also rubbish getting thrown everywhere.
“Traders are going to get pushed into a corner and could react badly if this goes on,and they shouldn’t be in that position in the first place.
“Our livelihoods are getting damaged and we’re on the edge here.
“It’s not like this every night but it is probably once every few weeks and the PCSOs have told me they are struggling to keep a lid on it.”
In the wake of the anti-social behaviour, the town hall has also faced criticism for not doing enough.
Coun Paul Maiden, an independent representative for Hindley Green ward, said: “There’s only one security guard in the market and he was overwhelmed. There’s also two in The Galleries.
“The place is unsafe. If I ran a music venue with that level of security staff I would be shut down.
“Now someone has been assaulted and as far as I’m concerned it’s down to the council not paying for the correct security.”
The town hall, however, rejected the suggestion it did not give a high priority to safety and gave a detailed outline of its security arrangements while also condemning the youths’ behaviour.
Becca Heron, director for economy and skills, said: “The safety of staff working on both of these sites and the general public is something we take extremely seriously, and we work hard to protect them and defuse situations such as this as quickly as possible. We will work closely with the police to ensure the perpetrators are brought to account.
“The market works in partnership with The Galleries to provide security provision across the sites.
“The Galleries provide regular patrols of the whole market site during opening hours Monday through to Saturday.
“In addition to the regular patrols we can call The Galleries security team at any time for additional support if an incident arises at the market.
“The market service contracts in separate security cover to provide an extra security presence during the trading week, they stay on site until the market is closed every evening.
“This cover is extended during busy periods of the year including school holidays and seasonal holidays.
“The market security officer is also linked via radio to The Galleries, Shop Watch and Central Watch. This provides a joined-up town centre-wide network of officers to deal with any eventuality.”