A group of neighbours on one Bolton estate are taking the law into their own hands after a spate of serious crimes. Seamus McDonnell catches up with the would-be crime fighters to find out more.

WHEN a pair of suspected burglars broke into a home in a small residential cul-de-sac they never expected to be confronted by a group of 20 crime-fighting neighbours as they tried to make good their escape.

But, after years of policing cuts, fed-up residents in the Ladybridge estate have decided to take the security of their neighbourhood into their own hands.

Far from gliding down from rooftops or wearing Spandex outfits, these crime fighting neighbours use technology, including Whatsapp and Facebook, to share information about suspect activity between themselves and even pouncing on would-be criminals operating in their community.

READ MORE: Councillors raised concerns about crime more than year ago

One resident, who is involved with the group, spoke to The Bolton News under strict conditions of confidentiality to explain how members of the group are working to stamp out criminal activity and stay one step ahead of the criminals.

We’ll call him John, not his real name.

“It’s completely not a vigilante thing, our first protocol is to ring the police,” he explained.

“There’s 200 people on the Whatsapp group. If I’m travelling or going outside of Bolton and somebody puts something on that group about my home, there’s a good chance that some of the people that we know will be around and they’ll go and have a look.

“There have been times when residents send a message to say their house alarm has gone off and someone will go for a quick walk around the house to check it.

“It’s like a neighbourhood watch but on a slightly larger scale.”

While the group does try to detain people found committing crime, they are careful not to take risks with potentially dangerous criminals.

“It’s got its risks, so we promote the approach that you’ve got to stay away and not approach the offenders,” John explained.

“If they’re coming to burgle they will be armed to a certain extent so it’s dangerous to approach them.”

The Bolton News:

In just one month, there were 36 criminal incidents reported to police from across Ladybridge, with the majority involving burglary, attempted theft of vehicles or anti-social behaviour.

The figures, from June of this year, are the most recent released by GMP through the service’s crime maps. Out of the crimes reported, six incidents involved attempting to steal a vehicle, five were related to breaking into a home and another five were instances of anti-social behaviour.

These problems, as well as speeding and drug dealing, are the main concerns for many residents in the area, according to John.

He said: “Drug dealing is rife, openly you’ll see it in front of you and that’s another problem.

“Cars come onto the estate and everyone’s been told to call Crimestoppers or 101 so people are reporting it – using the online tool as well – but the lack of police is restricting them from stopping the problem.

“These are low-level problems but that’s helping the more serious organised crime.”

He added: “Parts of the estate are like a race-track people use it to speed and we are not talking people doing 40mph in a 30 or a 20 area we are talking people doing 60mph or 70mph through the area.

“That’s been a problem for the last two years or so and for the last year and a half, we’ve been getting people together to make sure it’s reported.”

He pointed to a video posted in the Whatsapp group which showed a man in front of a home late at night who was holding up a backpack in an apparent attempt to “clone” the signal from a keyless entry car fob in an attempt to steal the vehicle.

“How can you feel safe when somebody’s doing that outside your house in a predominately decent area?” John said.

“How could you feel safe in that situation?”

While the residents of Ladybridge may be concerned about the safety of their community they do not blame their local police. Instead they point to wider problems across the borough with a lack of officers available to cover the area.

“We’ve got our local area police and they are active”, John said.

“So, for example, near the flats in Ladybridge there is a lot of anti-social behaviour and the police have been active in trying to stop it.

"They put up notices saying anyone involved in anti-social behaviour can have their cars impounded, so that’s been good as well.

“With the resources they’ve got the police have been supportive and not only in Ladybridge but I think Lostock and Heaton are both big targets for them.”

When asked what can be done by public bodies to try and improve the situation, John says residents hope to see CCTV cameras placed in key locations.

He suggested putting a camera in Broadford Road, close to the Deane Golf Club and Armadale Road, near Beaumont School, to cover the two main “entrances” to the estate.

“Last year, the local authority supported us in putting a camera up at one of those entrances,” he said.

"We feel strongly that if the authority or the police can support the residents of Ladybridge to pay for two cameras to go up in those places that will make the area much safer in the sense that any cars coming in will be recorded, especially at night.”

He added: “We’re willing to put our hands in our pockets, if there’s a camera needed and it’s going to cost so many thousand pounds we can do that but because of GDPR and other issues we can’t jump through the hoops that we need to go to, so we look to the local authority to take that initiative.”