THERE are fears that ‘vigilantes’ armed with baseball bats could start patrolling the streets of an estate plagued by burglaries due to a lack of police presence.

Heaton and Lostock councillor Andy Morgan has been alarmed by suggestions that Ladybridge residents could take the law into their own hands to tackle crime in the area.

He has now asked the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to intervene.

In a letter to Mr Burnham, Cllr Morgan pointed out that Heaton and Lostock has no dedicated police officers or PCSOs. In a 10-week period between August and November, there were 39 burglaries in Heaton and Lostock — significantly more than in neighbouring wards.

Cllr Morgan said: “Just two weeks ago we held a community meeting with the police in attendance where the public vented their frustrations with regards the 101 number and the fact that many of the residents have very clear CCTV of the offenders but police officers are not attending to collect the evidence.

"There were also comments about the residents patrolling the estate with baseball bats, which is obviously of great concern to both the police and us as ward councillors.

“The residents have also set up a Whatsapp group and stated that it is constantly monitored and that if someone falls victim to a crime they should immediately post of the group then people would rush to the house to ‘sort it out’.”

After the meeting, Cllr Morgan was able to obtain a temporary CCTV camera from the council which has been erected at the entry of the estate, but this will only be in place for four or five weeks.

In the period when 39 burglaries were recorded in Cllr Morgan’s ward, there were 20 in Astley Bridge, 14 in Smithills, and just 11 in Horwich and Blackrod — all of which had some dedicated police presence.

Police have now agreed to hold another meeting with residents, while Mr Burnham has blamed continuing Government cuts for the problem.

Cllr Morgan said that while frontline police are ‘doing what they can’, he wants ‘fair resources across the patch’.

He added: “Only last week was the proposal of patrolling the estate themselves raised again.

"Obviously apart from the continued burglaries our major concern is that residents will take matters into their own hands and we will have vigilantes walking the streets and the problems that will entail.

“Please rest assured this really is not a political issue, and shouldn’t be turned into one, this is about addressing the genuine concerns of our residents who are telling me and my ward colleagues they are now feeling unsafe in their homes and will take the matter into their own hands if we, as their representatives, and the police don’t address the issue.”

Mr Burnham said: “I understand and appreciate the concerns that Cllr Morgan and residents in his ward have.

"I have asked Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Beverley Hughes, to raise this issue with GMP but I am aware that the police have already made contact with Cllr Morgan and will be arranging a meeting between affected residents and GMP’s local neighbourhood team to see what we can done to improve the situation.

“The sad reality is that we are now entering the eighth year in a row that the government has inflicted real terms cuts on GMP.

"People in Greater Manchester are seeing the loss of visible policing in their communities and these cuts will only make things worse.

“However GMP officers continue to show great dedication and commitment to keeping our communities safe.

"I know they will want to work together with residents in Heaton and Lostock to tackle these issues and provide reassurance. I will be writing to Cllr Morgan with a full response shortly.”

Chief Inspector Tom Martin, of GMP’s Bolton Borough, said: “I have been in contact with Cllr Morgan on Friday about the concerns he has raised and we have agreed that in the first instance, a meeting between the affected communities and the local neighbourhood team will take place.

“There is a significant amount of ongoing work in Bolton to address burglary crimes including operation Dark Nights — a proactive policing initiative — and the work of the incredibly effective Bolton Action Team, who were established to take the fight against crime crime, towards the criminals. “How we respond to incidents is based on the threat harm and risk that each incident poses; where there is an immediate threat to someone’s life, the response will be quicker than the response for a crime that has already happened.

“This is because we have to allocate our resources appropriately in order to protect those in our community who are the most vulnerable and prevent people from coming to harm.

“We will do all we can, by working with our partners and other agencies, to prevent crime before it happens and solve them where possible but we need people to work with us, not against us. Taking matters into your own hands is not the way to solve these issues.

“To solve a crime, we can use a lot of different resources available to us including the intelligence we receive from the public, from covert enquiries and from observations so we need you to let us know about crime in your area – it may already form part of an ongoing operation and your information could be the piece of the jigsaw we need to solve it.”