POLICE officers were taken off the streets ‘to help with a new computer system’ residents were told at a public meeting this week.

Officers were ‘pulled’ from the streets to help with the transition to a new police computer system which then stretched already minimal resources on the ground, Bolton West police sergeant Paul Blackburn told a police and residents’ forum.

He said his officers struggled to do their jobs this summer amid residents’ complaints that anti-social behaviour had been making them feel unsafe.

Sgt Blackburn explained: “Neighbourhood officers have been pulled in to help with the new system. My officers from Westhoughton, Horwich, Heaton and Lostock have been dragged into it too. We have not been able to provide the service that residents wanted this summer.”

Westhoughton residents quizzed the sergeant and MP Chris Green and unsafe anti-social behaviour in the town’s park was their top complaint. One resident said: “There is a real shift in the atmosphere at Westhoughton Park after 3pm. Older children go down to meet up at the park and it goes from bad to worse. I have had to put out a fire in a bin, started by youths, using water bottles. They hurled abuse at me while I was doing it.”

Sgt Blackburn pledged that more police will be on the streets after the difficult summer. He said he had recruited one new neighbourhood beat officer and another new community support officer to his team and is hoping for another addition before the end of the year to ease the pressure. But he aired his frustrations that neighbourhood officer numbers are still far from where they need to be across the borough.

“Neighbourhood policing has had to take the brunt of the cuts, but now we’re going back to it and being allowed to do that,” said Sergeant Blackburn.

“It’s one of the most important aspects of policing. I want residents to be able to see us out and about, we want to start to get more people out on the beat and that’s what my officers want too. I want the resources back. We’re not blind to the problems, we’re aware of them.”

A GMP spokesperson said: “Officers have been involved in the training and implementation of the new IT system iOPS. Some neighbourhood officers have been tasked to help with administrative tasks in relation to iOPS. The new system will lead to many benefits, including an accurate record of data and analysis as well as better use of police resources.

“The safety of our communities will always be our number one priority, and our new system will allow us to continue providing the best possible service by streamlining policing processes and bringing GMP to the forefront of technology in policing.”