Chief Supt Stuart Ellison is just a few days into his new role at the head of policing in Wigan, Bolton and Bury.
He has a big task ahead of him, as he gets to grips with the needs of the three divisions. And he has encouraged people in Wigan to help by letting police know what is happening so they can stamp out crime.
In his first interview with the Evening Post in his new role, he said: “I would appeal to communities to keep talking to inspectors and our teams.
“We talk about crime intelligence and community intelligence, but without the community intelligence we won’t be able to know what’s happening.
“We need the public to keep talking to our teams and keeping providing that local intelligence that we need.
“Whether they do that directly to our team or Crimestoppers, either way let us know what’s going on. It’s easy to say police haven’t responded when they haven’t told us what’s going on.”
Chief Supt Ellison’s post was created in a restructure which now sees the force divided into four areas.
He is not a stranger to Wigan, having previously worked in the borough during his 23-year police career. He started as a police constable in Stockport in 1994, later moving to Merseyside Police for 16 years before returning to Greater Manchester Police in 2010 to work in Wigan.
His new role sees him replace Chief Supt Shaun Donnellan, who had responsibility for Wigan and Bolton and has moved to work in the public protection unit.
Chief Supt Ellison said: “I don’t have the same role Shaun Donnellan had because he was purely responsible for Bolton and Wigan. That gives me a challenge understanding the ins and outs of each borough, but it’s a challenge I’m up for.
“I’m here having been the Wigan operations superintendent about five years ago, when I transferred from Merseyside in 2010. I have very fond memories of a very successful time in Wigan and I am delighted to be back. There are a lot of people still here and it helps that I have that working knowledge of the Wigan borough.
“I am well aware of the division, the crime patterns, the seasonality.
“As a division, for a police officer, it’s a great place to work. It has everything - night-time economy, daytime economy, football, major arterial routes. Everything is here you would want as a police officer to make it an exciting place to work.”
One of the big challenges faced by Chief Supt Ellison will be how he manages being at the helm of policing in Wigan, alongside Bolton and Bury.
He said he will look at managing his diary carefully and is keen to be a leader who is seen by people. And he insists that policing will not be affected because he covers such a large area. He said: “I won’t let Wigan suffer. I have three boroughs, I respect the borough boundaries, I have staff deployed in three boroughs. The fact I’m sat above all three doesn’t change that we have three teams in three boroughs.”
Chief Supt Ellison admits the force does do some cross-borough working, but he insisted: “Day to day the Wigan staff will stay as Wigan staff with a very local focus.”
He will be relying on his team, including new superintendent Steve Keeley, to lead policing in the borough. He said: “I think it’s important to note that the superintendent in each division is the day-to-day commander.
“I have to accept my role with the three divisions is oversight, steering, direction, but I do reserve the right to interfere when I think something needs doing.”
In fact, he believes there could be benefits to Wigan, Bolton and Bury being in a cluster together.
He said: “I’m looking forward to bringing some consistency to the three divisions. GMP’s previous operating model had 10 divisions doing things in 10 different ways.
“I need to get some consistency to the three divisions to the benefit of the three divisions. The operational staff have to focus on each borough, but there are things I think we can do internally to bring more efficiencies to the benefit of all the divisions.
“We can find good practice in one part that might not be in place in others and bring a standardised approach to it.”
Chief Supt Ellison is already getting to know Wigan again and has met Wigan Council’s chief executive Donna Hall.
He described the relationship between the police and council as “really positive” and is keen for his inspectors to work closely with partners.
And he is, of course, already focused on stamping out crime in the borough. He said: “The crime issues vary as they do in every division, from place to place and season to season.”
One of the main problems at the moment is a spike in domestic burglaries in Whelley.
He said: “The team here are working quite proactively with a burglary initiative in the Whelley area. That’s a talking point at the moment. We are hunting down a couple of suspects now and we have staff on it.”
Another issue being looked at in Wigan, as well as across the force, is the support given to vulnerable people. He said: “A key priority for Greater Manchester Police is dealing with vulnerability and that’s no different in Wigan, whether that’s young people being exploited or people who are the victims of domestic violence. The whole issue of vulnerability is always a priority.”
Officers are also working proactively to tackle issues such as violence at night and acquisitive crime such as burglaries.
While Chief Supt Ellison admits there are fewer bobbies on the streets, he said officers were still going where needed.
He said: “Our establishment is smaller than it was just a few years ago, when we had budget cuts, and that makes visibility more of a challenge.
“They probably won’t see the same number of people on the streets and cars passing by.
“I would reassure people that our analytical capability means we know where staff need to be at the right time. We have just learned to be smarter about what we do.”
The closure of the front counter at Leigh police station - one of 10 of 22 public inquiry counters set to shut - is another change people will notice.
He said: “Leigh was one of the bottom two or three public inquiry counters in the force area in terms of usage.
“I would ask the public to consider that some counters were getting an average 1.6 visits a day.
“There is no business case to get it staffed and open just in case someone comes in.
“Leigh will still be operationally staffed and people can pick up a phone outside the station.”
Last year, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins told the Evening Post an informal contract with citizens, inspired by Wigan Council’s Deal, could set out what people should expect from their police force and what officers would value in return.
For example, a crime reference number after a shed break-in could be provided online, rather than sending an officer.
And Chief Supt Ellison said this is taking place across Greater Manchester. He said: “When we talk about being smarter about where we go and what we do, that’s it. We don’t have the capability to go to every crime where there’s no line of enquiry. There might be a need for a crime reference number but no lines of enquiry. We have people trained to take that information. We might not deploy.”