COUNCILLORS hope police will carry on clamping down on crime in Westhoughton after a dispersal order was carried out following a stabbing in the town centre.

Police were called to Church Street on Friday, February 19 at around 9.15pm to reports of a disturbance and a large group of people fighting.

Two 17-year-old boys were assaulted by a group of around six people.

One of them managed to flee the scene but the second was attacked and stabbed.

He was taken to hospital and suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

A 13-year-old and a 15-year-old were arrested in connection with the incident and have been released on bail pending further enquiries.

Following the incident, police announced a dispersal order would be in place between 6pm on Friday February 26 until 4am on Sunday February 28, giving officers the powers to ask anyone to leave the area and not return.

The weekend of action was hailed a success with only a couple of incidents reported, including a drunken teenager being escorted home.

But councillors have said problems with youngsters travelling from Bolton to Westhoughton have been longstanding, and hope police work in the town centre will continue.

Cllr Anna-Marie Watters said: "There's been a lot of concern from residents.

"People have been really quite shocked but not surprised.

"We have had problems with groups of youths coming from outside the area into Westhoughton for 18 months and it has been more noticeable during the lockdowns.

"It has been happening every day, not just weekends.

"The stabbing was not an isolated incident.

"Westhoughton has had issues in the town centre over the last few years.

"The sad thing was when we lost the police station in 2004.

"Since then the population of Westhoughton has grown and obviously we have one of the biggest towns in Bolton so something serious does need to be looked at.

"We have told the police about the issues for years.

"There are people who do not go out on the street because they are being intimidated.

"Some thought does need to go into anti-social behaviour into the town and making it more amenable for people to go to."

Cllr Watters also also recognises the pressure on police in the current coronavirus climate.

Westhoughton Cllr David Wilkinson said the problem has been an ongoing concern too.

He said: "It seemed that the dispersal order worked.

"There were only a couple of minor incidents.

"Myself and other people reported significant problems last year.

"There were group-related incidents in the town centre around Church Street and there were assaults that took place.

"They were not as serious as the stabbing the other week which led to the dispersal order but we did raise the problems with the police.

"There have been groups of young people coming to Westhoughton from Bolton.

"I was a bit disappointed with the response last year but I know that Greater Manchester Police is still substantially understaffed and they are having to deal with Covid enforcement as well.

"Some residents felt it was not being taken seriously enough.

"Hopefully we do not see a situation like we did the other week, which could have been a lot worse.

"It has caused a lot of concern in the community."

The Liberal Democrats representative added that he was disappointed that there was no mention of strengthening police forces in the government's budget on Wednesday.

Following the weekend of action, Chief Inspector Mike Russell, from Bolton police, said the district "won't hesitate to implement dispersal orders again".

He said: "Dispersal orders are just one part of our overarching response to support the community; we will soon be announcing the launch of a dedicated operation to help tackle anti-social behaviour across Bolton.

"We are committed to tackling issues which are important to our communities, and we will continue to target any groups that are involved in this type of behaviour which is causing distress and upset.

“I would encourage parents and carers to play their part by remaining aware of their children’s whereabouts and knowing who they are out with."