CONCERNS have been raised over drug taking and drug deals in Astley Bridge.

Police said they have been clamping down on the crime, and have dealt with three individual groups over the past 18 months in a bid to tackle the issues.

Officers stressed that the demand on the police is high but they urged residents to keep providing data and information via 101 or using the live police chat feature online.

Sgt Stuart Williams, of Bolton Central Police Station, said: "We have received some information and we are currently working to tackle these drug problems.

"We would love to have officers hidden outside to catch those responsible but we do not have the capacity any more.

"While we can, we have parked at the bottom of the avenue to try and tackle the issue."

Residents said the problems have persisted in Holden Avenue and Sharples Avenue for more than six months.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: "These drug deals have been going on for more than six months. They are handing money over in front of you and laughing at residents.

"They were fighting on the garage forecourt the other night.

"It is constant. It happens more on Saturdays and Sundays, anytime from 11am."

Sgt Williams emphasised the pressures faced by the police.

He said: "We take about 5,000 calls every day, of which 3,000 will need actioning.

"There are likely to be 1,000 incidents waiting to be allocated, with maybe 15 to 20 officers on duty. And we will also be looking for nine missing people, mainly children."

Residents have also been urged to be vigilant after a rise in vehicle crime in Astley Bridge.

Sgt Williams warned vehicle owners to ensure their cars and vans are locked and that no belongings are left on show.

He gave an overview of the current crime issues in the area at the Astley Bridge area forum held on Thursday night.

"Burglary figures are down this year compared to last year by quite a lot. Antisocial behaviour is down. However, vehicle crime has gone through the roof.

"We anticipate that about 35 per cent of that is due to people leaving their cars unlocked.

"It is a massive issue for us. People are leaving satnavs, loose change, sunglasses and other valuables on show.

"We have had prams taken out of the back of cars.

"We are asking you, your friends and family to lock your vehicles."

Under changes to the way Greater Manchester Police operates, neighbourhood officers are being brought back in to respond to issues that affect the community.

It is hoped these individuals will have more capacity to tackle the day-to-day concerns of residents.

Sgt Williams said the neighbourhood officer Emma Crowe has "made some big strides" in Astley Bridge since her appointment in September.