A VIDEO claiming to show a masked vigilante destroying a drug dealer’s car has been slammed as ‘fake news’ by police and officers have moved to reassure residents over reports of armed and masked men patrolling the streets.

National newspapers have reported on the footage and have claimed armed and masked men have taken to the streets of Blackrod because of concerns over crime.

The video claims to show a masked ‘vigilante’ destroying a car he claims belonged to a drug-dealer using a forklift he states belongs to a drug dealer.

The man says that the criminals are ‘playing with the wrong vigilantes’ while destroying the car with an axe and a forklift.

Police have now said the video was staged and moved to reassure residents.

Chief Inspector Clark Bowers of GMP’s Bolton Borough, said: “We are aware of a video that shows a person in a balaclava with an axe claiming to be part of a ‘vigilante’ group from Blackrod.

“While it appears to be very real, this is fake news. It is not a true reflection of the people of Blackrod nor of the current picture of crime in the area and it is very misleading.

“We have identified the person in the video and have established that this is a staged video and although it was not a good decision to make, there was no malicious intent.

“Unfortunately, before we were able to investigate this fully, it was shared a number of times on social media and used by some newspapers, causing unnecessary worry and panic.

“I want it to be clear that we have listened and will continue to listen to the concerns raised to us to do everything we can to solve crimes and make sure people are safe but we need to firstly, be informed and secondly, need you to work with us, not against us.

“We will of course respond to incidents where there is an immediate risk to someone’s safety or their life quicker than we will for burglaries or ongoing antisocial behaviour in the area but this does not mean that we are not doing anything.

“There are dedicated officers, staff and volunteers working hard to identify ways in which we are working well and ways in which we could improve.

“It’s no secret that we are not always able to investigate every crime when there aren’t forensic opportunities, CCTV or a likelihood of a conviction but please, let us be the ones to make that assessment.”

Earlier this month, a community meeting was held in nearby Ladybridge where it was suggested residents could take to the streets with baseball bats to protect the area due to a lack of police and worries over rising crime.

Horwich and Blackrod councillor Ann Cunliffe said she has had phone calls from a number of concerned residents after they had seen the footage and read reports of the armed vigilantes.

She also moved to reassure residents.

Cllr Cunliffe said: “It is not a true reflection of Blackrod at all. Blackrod is a brilliant and safe place to live.

“There are no vigilantes here. This is fake news.

“The video was produced for some unknown reasons. They might have thought it was a laugh.”

Cllr Cunliffe is now hoping to work with police to reassure residents.

She said: “It has scared a number of the good people of Blackrod, mostly the elderly and people who have children.

“I am working with the police. I am hoping to arrange a meeting in the next couple of weeks and hopefully police will be able to give people the facts and reassure them.

“I have never seen armed, masked vigilantes walking around. Nobody has ever reported them to me because there aren’t any.”