HAVING fewer police on the ground is a 'positive challenge' says Bolton's new superintendent.

Steve Howard, who replaced the borough's previous superintendent Andrea Jones at the end of last year, acknowledges that local people are concerned about not having so many officers available, but believes it is an opportunity to find new ways of dealing with problems.

He said: “It is fact that there has been a reduction in numbers in line with a lot of services.


“What we need to do is look at how the community can work with us so that we can understand their concerns and working together come to a solution for that.

“Any reduction in numbers brings about a challenge. That challenge is a positive challenge. It is allowing us to look at how we work with others and solve problems."

Originally from Greater Manchester, Supt Howard started his career in 1989 with the Metropolitan Police before moving to GMP five years later.

He has worked in various special operations roles, as a football match commander and, prior to his move to Bolton, was a superintendent in south Manchester for three years.

Supt Howard is enjoying getting to know people in Bolton.

“Bolton is a very cosmopolitan and a really diverse area and I have been struck by the warmth of welcome that I have received from different parts of the community," he said.

“The strength of the police in Bolton is our strong links with partners and the community.”

However, in recent months a number of meetings have been held around the borough, including in Ladybridge and Astley Bridge, because of residents' concerns about crime and a reduction in officer numbers.

But Supt Howard wants to reassure the public stressing that an apparent increase in crime can be put down to a change in the way incidents are recorded

“We have seen a change in the way we record crime," he said. "However, what is more important is what is behind these figures.

“We realise that there are concerns about reductions in numbers [of police officers]. However policing in Bolton is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“I can reassure the communities of Bolton that there are always officers out and about and they are very busy and there are always police officers in your area.”

He urged people to take part in a consultation, launched by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, into how Greater Manchester is policed.

Supt Howard said: “The priority at Bolton is keeping people safe. It is an obvious priority, but its also important that people feel safe.

“The police model that we use in Bolton is very much place centric. It is very much Bolton centric and Bolton focused.

“One of the big things we will be looking to develop over the coming weeks and months is how we engage with our community and how we include our community in the actions that we do.”

As well as continuing to work with various communities in the area, Supt Howard said police are looking at using technology better and understanding of how people want to talk to them.

He added that they could communicate with people via video conferencing or email in the future.

Police put the victim ‘at the centre of everything’, says the superintendent and a specialist is working with officers in Bolton to find more ways of supporting people who have been affected by crime.

Supt Howard is enjoying his first few weeks in the town.

“Bolton is a delightful place to work," he said.

“Over the Christmas period we received numerous letters from local schools thanking officers for their service.”