By Jasmine Jackson
THE Zero Zone initiative is being launched for a fourth year as the Saddleworth and Lees neighbourhood police team adapts during the pandemic to continue serving the community.
The scheme was introduced four years ago to help businesses tackle anti-social behaviour, such as drug misuse and drunken behaviour, and has been a ‘great success’ says Sgt Paul Heap.
“This year we have had to make a number of amendments taking into account what status the country will be in with regards to lockdown or one of the three tiers,” Sgt Heap explained.
“Either way, we will be ready to meet any demand and we will be working closely with the local licensee team along with support from the Saddleworth Street Pastor team.
“The Zero Zone has seen great success in making the night-time economy at Saddleworth and Lees as safe and supported as possible.”
The pandemic has caused the postponement of many police projects and initiatives but public reassurance, safety and supporting vulnerable people has remained a priority.
Sgt Heap said: “Public reassurance in such uncertain times has been the main focus of the team and we have had to postpone many initiatives and projects as our priorities with Covid-19 changed.
“We are working with our partners to focus and address issues of vulnerability and serious violent crime in our community.
“Protecting and helping our most vulnerable residents is key to our work as many people are unable to access the support they need due to Covid restrictions.
“We are also striving to address other local issues such as burglary, vehicle crime, speeding vehicles and anti-social behaviour whenever they become problematic with pro-active initiatives.
“We have had to adapt to life with Covid-19, amending our working practices to ensure social distancing while still ensuring our local community receives the same level of service.
“Covid-19 will be with us for some time and as such our policing style will have to continue to adapt and change to allow us to continue to work effectively in our local communities.”
He added the level of compliance with Covid-19 regulations and restrictions in Saddleworth and Lees has been ‘exceptionally high’.
The neighbourhood police team has also launched its Darker Nights campaign and #nineoclockroutine to protect people and raise awareness of the dangers of darker evenings.
“With the darker evenings come emerging opportunities for our criminals around acquisitive crime, where items are stolen by a variety of ways,” explained Sgt Heap.
“We do get incidents of sneak-in thefts in dwellings where criminals will open insecure doors and reach in taking handbags and small items.
“Unaware victims sometimes do not find items missing until sometimes days later and by then credit cards have been used and their property disposed of.
“To counter this activity, we spend a great deal of time sending out key messaging around home security, perimeter security, vehicle security and personal security.
“We introduced the #nineoclockroutine where we prompt our local community each evening to check their doors and windows to make sure they are locked, to physically walk the perimeter of their home and check gates to rear gardens are secure.
“We tell people to move wheelie bins inside their gardens as opposed to being up against fence lines and gates as these give opportunistic criminals a help over what would normally be a barrier.
“And we remind people to stow away and remove garden tools that can be used to leaver open doors and windows.
“It’s an ongoing process through the winter months and we use social media and physically go door to door doing leaflet drops to get our messages across.”