‘Don’t take the law into your own hands’ - Police commissioner’s plea to ‘vigilante groups’

Plea: Mr Clive Grunshaw

Plea: Mr Clive Grunshaw

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Burnley residents are being urged not to take the law into their own hands to tackle anti-social behaviour.

The plea was made this week by Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mr Clive Grunshaw at a highly-charged public meeting.

His appeal came after it was revealed that self-styled vigilante groups are staging midnight patrols in Padiham. Neighbours living in the Hapton Road area of the town have become so fed up with a spate of break-ins and incidents of anti-social behaviour they are taking it in turns to patrol the area into the early hours of the morning. And resident Mrs Kath Ashcroft said people were forced to take the extreme measures due to the lack of police officers in the town.

Mrs Ashcroft (59), a mother of three with eight grandchildren, told the Padiham Express: “I hate to use the word vigilante, these are ordinary family men who have discussed the situation and now take it in turns to walk around the area at midnight and beyond.

“I feel safer in my bed at night because of them because I do worry that something could happen to them.’’

Neighbours in the area around Barley Street, Oat Street and Levant Street, have been plagued by groups of youths breaking into sheds and also running round trying front door handles to gain access to properties. There has also been problems with groups of hooligans throwing stones at passing cars.

Mrs Ashcroft said residents’ frustration and upset has turned to anger when they have been unable to get hold of the police on numerous occasions.

She added: “We appear to have one police officer in Padiham, Sgt Mick Burnett, and he does a good job but we need more on the ground to support us and get this problem sorted out before it escalates out of control.’’

Mrs Ashcroft, who lives with her husband Bob, said feelings ran high recently when residents discovered a convicted paedophile had been housed in St John’s Road. Mrs Ashcroft claimed that when a youth started banging on the windows of his home up to 14 police officers arrived on the scene within minutes.

She said: “People living here were very angry that resources became available so quickly to protect someone who we saw as a threat to our community but when we need them they just aren’t there.’’

Mrs Ashcroft tackled Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mr Clive Grunshaw when he staged a question and answer session at Padiham Town Hall this week. Mr Grunshaw, who explained that Lancashire Constabulary has been forced to cut its budget by £43m. with the loss of 700 officers across the county, said he would look into the situation and see if resources could be deployed to the area. Sgt Burnett appealed for people in Padiham to ring 999 if they felt in danger or suspected a crime was taking place.

He said: “I realise that people are patrolling the area where they live with the best of intentions but this is not something we want to encourage at all. There is great potential for disaster and I would appeal to people to ring the police and report each and every incident so we can build up a picture of what is happening in the area and respond appropriately.’’