Residents frustrated by crime and anti-social behaviour in their community are harnessing the power of social media to stop offending.
The Facebook page Lawless Ashton has been set up by a group of people in the town who say Greater Manchester Police (GMP) is unable to get to grips with the area’s problems.
Founders and administrators of the site say police numbers have been drastically reduced in Ashton, with just one dedicated officer allocated to the town, and say not enough is being done to curb burglaries against businesses, drug use and alcohol-fuelled disorder.
They hope Ashton residents will upload information, photos and perhaps CCTV footage to the site and this will assist officers in making more arrests.
GMP said statistics showed Ashton was becoming safer but recognised people living there are still worried about crime and urged anyone who sees offences to report them.
Lawless Ashton’s founder, who asked not to be identified, said: “Residents and businesses have had enough. So many businesses have been burgled and yet people on the other side of the town don’t know about it.
“Everybody deserves to have the information so they can decide if they are being adequately policed. I don’t believe for one minute that we are.
“The town is rife with anti-social behaviour but nobody is getting caught and nothing is being done about it.
“Ashton has been allocated one dedicated police beat officer when we used to have our own police station. By any standards that is not acceptable and an impossible situation. GMP is not prioritising community policing.
“However, there’s another side of Lawless Ashton which is to support the police. They are suffering budget cuts so I’m hoping we will be able to assist by being the eyes and ears of the community.
“I’m remaining anonymous because this is not about me, it’s about the principle of law and order in Ashton. There are several of us running the page and we’re all residents extremely concerned about what is going on.”
GMP defended its record in tackling crime in Ashton but said residents also had a part to play due to budget cuts.
The force also reminded people that it cannot directly pick up crime reports from online sites such as Facebook.
Inspector Andrew Smith of GMP’s Wigan borough said: “While recorded crime in Ashton has reduced by seven per cent in the last year, including reductions in residential burglaries and vehicle crime, we understand that there are still a number of issues concerning local residents, including antisocial behaviour.
“We’re committed to working with partner agencies and local residents to tackle this and hold those responsible to account and we will always need residents’ support to do this.
“We will always listen to concerns from the community and work with them to make Ashton-in-Makerfield as safe as it possibly can be.
“We still have a dedicated neighbourhood officer and PCSO for the town who work tirelessly to deal with the issues that matter most to the people of Ashton, and we work with teams from across the force when there’s a particular issue of concern.
“For example, this weekend we brought our specialist off-road bike team to the area to help us deal with concerns about the illegal use of offroad bikes.
“However, we simply cannot do this alone. With the well-known increased pressures on policing we must all work together to keep our communities safe.
“It’s really important that any offences are reported to police so that we can act on it at the earliest possible opportunity. In an emergency call 999, in a non-emergency or to report an incident that has already happened ring 101 or use the new live chat function on the GMP website. We cannot take reports via social media.”
The new group can be viewed at https://m.facebook.com/HashtagLawlessAshton/