Online community policing platform is no substitute for in-person PACT meetings in Blackpool

The chairman of a Blackpool Police and Community Together (PACT) group highlights the importance of their group after suggestions that in-person meetings could be replaced by online forums.

By Lucinda Herbert
Friday, 29th July 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 1st August 2022, 9:37 am

A digital platform has helped more people to engage with the police than the in-person PACT meetings, which “attract only a small group of community activists”, according to a Freedom of Information letter from Lancashire Police.

Lancashire Talking was rolled out from January 2020 and took off during the pandemic. It links in with the police community messaging system In The Know.

But Dave Blacker, chairman of the Talbot PACT group, argued that the online forum will not replace the need for their monthly meetings.

Blackpool police and community organisations are emphasising the need to work together if they are to beat anti-social behaviour in the town. Pictured L-R: PCSO Martin Taylor, Blackpool Council Head of Neighbourhood Services for Central area Hugh Wignall, Talbot Ward PACT Chairman Dave Blacker, and PC Jamie Robinson. PIC BY ROB LOCK 11-4-2013

Dave said: “In The Know may send PCSOs out to your street but this is different. It’s about building trust between one human being and another. That doesn’t come with one visit. Building relations with the police and community in person is absolutely vital.”

The monthly meetings allow the public to raise issues with their neighbourhood policing team, and local ward councillors. The public can set a priority, if there’s an issue for the police to deal with in the area.

Over the years they have tackled persistent dog poo, and campaigned to stop a bank branch from closing on Whitegate Drive in 2017.

They fought against a mobile phone mast being installed in a conservation area in 2021.

And they have helped the police to solve crimes including antisocial behaviour and counterfeit goods.

“Our members supply vital information. It might only be a single thing that doesnt mean much on its own but it can make all the difference.”

Lancashire Police wrote that the new platform allows people to do this by using a survey, which integrates with the force community messaging system In The Know.

Blackpool users rose from 3,000 in Jan 2020, to 8,500 in May 2022.

David added: “E readers haven’t replaced physical books. It’s a massive assumption to think that everyone is being reached with technology. There’s space for both types of engagement.”

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The meetings are held every month at the Guards Club on Whitegate Drive. Some people are regulars, while others pop in when they have an issue to raise.

And they also get special guests to share their expertise.

Cllr Jane Hugo, Talbot ward councillor, said: “[People can} highlight their concerns about their experiences of the neighbourhood, for example, ASB, shoplifting, dog fouling, run down properties, speeding and road conditions. The chair will ask the relevant official to respond and/or bring a report back to the next meeting.”

Jane holds her surgery after the PACT meeting. She added: “It is important that the local community can share their concerns, hold officers and elected members to account and highlight the priority issues for the area.”

Aside from solving crime, the meetings are a hub for local information, and community spirit.

Residents learn about events at Stanley Park, and litter picking.

Ian White, CEO of the Chorlton Hotel and Stay Blackpool, is a regular at the Talbot PACT meetings. He said: “The community learns about things that are going on, many of which are positive. There are times when things have a detrimental impact on our lives. The meeting has a massive part to play in the journey to restoring order.