THE recent high-profile police operation in Greenfield has been a shock to the tight knit community.
It follows two frightening car-jacking incidents in Greenfield and Uppermill earlier this year when attackers stole two vehicles, threatening the drivers with violence.
Residents in Greenfield in particular were suitably upset and incensed that they launched a Neighbourhood Crimewatch group, which has already held two meetings.
And Saddleworth South councillor Jamie Curley decided to see for himself the size of the problem facing Saddleworth’s dedicated community police force.
He told the Independent of his experiences:
“A cold Monday evening saw me attend Uppermill Police Station to meet Sgt Neil Barker and PC Lee Cullen of Saddleworth and Lees Policing Team.
“First up was a briefing from PC Cullen on what to expect during the evening and a walk through the current policing situation.
“During the briefing, PC Cullen explained about the Zero Tolerance Zone initiative, coming up to its third anniversary, for the night-time economy had worked extremely well.
“In partnership with pubs and bars in Uppermill, there has been a huge drop in crime and anti-social behaviour.
“This partnership approach was a topic we returned to several times during our evening patrol and is reflected in much of the work the community policing team does.
“Liaising closely with Oldham Council officers and local councillors, the community policing team works with local pub and bar owners to keep the night time economy safe.
“I was then kitted out with body armour and a police observer lanyard and it was out into the cold night to begin our patrol of Saddleworth.
“First up was a visit to a recent burglary for PC Cullen to collect more evidence and provide reassurance to the householder.
“I was struck, watching the CCTV footage of the burglars, thinking ‘how dare you! That’s not yours to take’.
“Crime is currently at a low level in comparison with other years in Saddleworth but the visit from PC Cullen was much appreciated.
“This is typical of the people-centred and community approach of PC Cullen and the Saddleworth team.
“Then it was back on to a regular patrol around the villages.
“Main roads, side roads and estates all got attention from PC Cullen and his experienced eyes looking for anything unusual or suspicious, occasionally stopping his vehicle and using the alley lights to illuminate an area of interest.
“It was a very visible presence for both residents and potential criminals that police were out and about and looking after the community.
“PC Cullen explained as we were driving round how essential it is that people take simple precautions to protect their property – locking doors, keeping ladders and tools locked away and making sure you have locked car doors and put valuables out of sight.
“Now the longer nights are upon us it is also important to keep homes lit, and using timer switches is always a good idea.
“All the time we were out, the radio chatter was constant with incidents, none in Saddleworth but plenty in Oldham.
“It was a busy night for Q division. Our patrol took us all over Saddleworth, occasionally stopping to check particular locations, including known fly-tipping spots.
“I reflected that, as with being a councillor, local knowledge is priceless for our policing team.
“Once or twice we stopped to have a chat with groups of young people; nothing untoward but a friendly chat with the local beat officer just to make sure.
“Off again and another sweep, this time also checking residential areas with lots of cars parked, making sure no unknown characters were out and about checking for unlocked doors and valuables on display.
“PC Cullen again emphasised how we can all make it harder for the criminals and easier for ourselves by locking things away.
“Our evening drew to a close and apart from investigating a couple of suspicious incidents and making sure the community was safe it had been a relatively quiet night.
“I was left with the impression, however, our community policing team is so passionate about the community and what they do.
“For Inspector Stewart Wilson, Sgt Neil Barker, PC Lee Cullen, PC Mark Clough and the rest of the team, it’s not just a job – it really is their life.
“They care about their community and it is this attitude and the partnership approach they have with other agencies and community groups which really left an impression on me.
“It’s a tough job but I’m glad we have this team to do it.”