POLICE are battling with hundreds of car crimes each month across the borough.

Last year Bolton was second only to Rochdale in the rate of vehicle crime reported to GMP outside of Manchester, including thousands of incidents of cars and vans being stolen and thieves taking items out of vehicles.

On average there were 13 reports of vehicle crime for each 1,000 people — a significantly higher rate than in similar sized areas such as Wigan and Bury.

In recent months, some of the key problem areas have included parts of Halliwell, such as Chorley Old Road, and Manchester Road, just outside the town centre.

The town’s parks have also been revealed as hotspots, with nearly 30 thefts or other incidents committed around car parks and green spaces.

Vehicle crime is the broad term for a range of crimes including theft of motor vehicle, theft from motor vehicle, vehicle interference, and damage to motor vehicle. The figures are kept and updated by GMP.

Bolton police sergeant Faye Lowe has offered advice for residents to avoid car theft or having items stolen from your vehicle.

“Firstly, always lock your vehicle. It seems a bit obvious, but if you are stopped at a petrol station or nipping into your house or a corner shop it’s vital to lock it,” she explained.

“Also, make sure windows, sun roofs and anything else that can be opened is securely closed. Don’t give people the opportunity to fish for items in your car.”

Sgt Lowe also warned motorists about thieves after more niche items, like car licence plates or wheel alloys.

“A lot of people don’t know that you can get tamper resistant screws for your number plate,” she added. “People sometimes steal plates so they can put them on another car that has been stolen or use them during a crime.

“There are also locking anti-tamper wheel nuts which help to secure alloy wheels.

“If you’ve got a keyless entry fob, keep your keys safe and well away from doors and windows. Try and keep the fob in a screened box or Faraday bag so the signal can’t be picked up from the outside.

“You can also turn off the wireless on some keyless fobs.”

The Bolton News:

One woman who has been hit hard by car theft is Eunice Ratcliffe.

When thieves took her people carrier car they also stole hundreds of pounds of camping equipment and some irreplaceable personal items.

At around 10pm on Wednesday, August 14, Ms Ratcliffe was in the front room of her home in Forfar Street, Astley Bridge, when she spotted the vehicle being driven away from the property.

Despite rushing outside there was nothing she could do to stop the car she has owned for more than a decade from being stolen.

The theft came at an especially difficult time as the car had been packed up with walking and camping gear ready for a two-week holiday in Anglesey, North Wales, which has now been cancelled.

The Bolton News:

To make matters worse, the car, a distinctive green Toyota Granvia, had contained a number of rosettes won by Ms Ratcliffe’s prize Jack Russell, Sugar, who died in 2014.

“I feel like my life has been ripped out from under me,” said the cleaner, who is in her 60s.

“I can’t go away any more, it has absolutely ruined my holiday. I can’t afford to get all that stuff replaced, I have been camping on my own for 10 years, so I had collected a lot of things.

“I also use the car to get to and from work, so I’m absolutely snookered because I can’t get to work.”

Ms Ratcliffe still hopes her car will be found because of its unusual stickers, including black tribal logos on the side of the vehicle and a large eagle decal on the front.

The Bolton News:

The theft came the day before another incident with a different outcome.

A Worsley resident, who asked to remain anonymous, had his vehicle taken from outside his home.

The car, a Mercedes E-Class, had a keyless entry system but was taken after thieves “cloned” the keys.

Cloning is a method by which people can use a device to copy the signal sent out by a key fob to trick a vehicle into thinking the fob is present.

After his car was taken, the man said he called police but was told there were not enough officers available to help.

Fortunately, he was able to track the car through an app developed by Mercedes which sent a notification to his phone when the vehicle’s engine was started.

He followed the app and was able to recover his vehicle after finding it at a car park in Burnden.

The Bolton News:

A spokesman for GMP explained that a lack of officers has made it difficult to immediately react to incidents such as car theft.

They said: “With thousands of fewer officers across Greater Manchester, increased complexity of demand and potential further cuts on the horizon, we have had to make changes to the way we work to meet the public’s need.

“We are absolutely committed to reducing the impact of this reduction in police resources on the people of Greater Manchester and have transformed the way that we work to ensure we are providing the best possible service.

“When reports are made to police we make an assessment on how best to respond based on the threat, risk and harm posed to the public.

“The report is then assessed and depending on its severity, officers could be deployed immediately, later the same day or the call may be able to be resolved over the phone without having to send someone out.

“Inevitably, we have to make difficult decisions when prioritising calls to provide the right service to those who need it most.

“We have issued smartphones and tablets to frontline staff to enable them to spend more time out in the community, while we are transforming the way we work with a new operational policing system.

“We also focus on prevention, working with partners and communities to problem solve the factors that contribute to recurring crime ‘hotspots’.

“We will continue to do everything we can, alongside our partners and communities, to keep the people of Greater Manchester safe and provide the best service we can to those who need us most.”