A NEW top police officer hopes to make Bolton the safest town centre in Greater Manchester.

Insp Andy Sidebotham took over policing the town centre last month and is now in charge of the Bolton Central neighbourhood policing unit.

The 32-year-old, who has 12 years’ experience with Greater Manchester Police, is thought to be the youngest inspector in the force.

He has previously worked as a sergeant in Gorton, Manchester, and dealt with crime issues surrounding the Manchester universities.

He said: “My vision for the town centre is to build on some of the work we have done and make it the safest town centre in Greater Manchester.

“It is a big ask because outside the city centre it is one of the busiest in Greater Manchester.

“Bolton has suffered. People are put off the town centre because of the way it is, and we want to bring those people back.

“Action plans have been put in place and crime has fallen in pubs significantly, and my job is to build on that.”

The central policing area also includes Rumworth, Halliwell and, from March, it will also include Great Lever.

Next month, the number of neighbourhood policing teams in Bolton will be reduced from four to three in a major shake-up of the way the town is policed.

The current south, east, west and central areas will be replaced with north, south and central areas.

Insp Sidebotham said the different areas each have their own challenges.

A big issue in Rumworth is vehicle crime, with petty crooks smashing windows to grab loose change or cigarettes left on show.

Insp Sidebotham said: “We start our day at the police station and finish here, but the rest of the time we are out in the community.”

Bolton's top police officer, Ch Supt David Hull, has previously said the town centre is “not pleasant” and that changes need to be made to stamp out violence, although he insists things are steadily improving.

He said that, under government proposals, bars and clubs could be charged a late night levy to pay for policing them if they stay open after a certain time.