A POLICE chief has urged worried business owners in a community hit by a series of burglaries to increase vigilance and report anything suspicious.
Around 100 business owners and residents packed out the White Hart at Lydgate for the ‘Security for Saddleworth’ meeting, also attended by police and local councillors.
The meeting was set up by hair salon owner Jo Ferns to tackle the recent commercial crime rise in the area after her own business was broken into twice in six weeks.
Hers is one of numerous businesses burgled since December, with others including Ruger barbers at Lydgate, Neil Mellor’s butchers, 20-20 Opticians, Betty’s and Muse in Uppermill.
Sergeant Neil Barker confirmed there have been 27 linked commercial offences across Oldham from November 1, 2015 to February 10, 2016 – compared to 14 in the same period a year ago.
Greenfield, Uppermill and Lydgate have suffered 11, six in Saddleworth West and Lees, and another two in Dobcross and Delph, mainly at licensed or retail premises.
Sergeant Barker said: “What the police are doing is putting additional resources in target places and at certain times. There is also an awful lot of work being done by PCSOs.
“The burglaries have all been overnight when the premises are empty. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a massive amount of forensic evidence we can use.
“We have some CCTV footage but it is not necessarily enough for us to make an ID from but it will tell us how many people are involved. They tend to be in groups of two to four.”
Chief Superintendent Caroline Ball, Divisional Commander for GMPs Oldham Division, added: “We are working with neighbouring areas, including with Tameside and Rochdale, because people can come in to commit crimes.
“When the pattern started to emerge we increased patrols. Sometimes people think we do not take burglaries that are not houses seriously – but we do as this is your livelihood.”
Ch Supt Ball, who lives in Saddleworth, also highlighted three key things – alarms, locks and lights – which businesses should have in place to help them not become a victim.
And she urged the community to report anything suspicious or unusual by calling the non-emergency number 101 to help the police piece together a jigsaw of information.
“Look out for strange cars or suspicious people lurking,” she said. “I do not care if we get 100 responses in one night. We will check them all out.”
Nick Watts, chair of Uppermill Community Association, said a lot of reports and warnings are being shared on their Facebook group between businesses and residents.
“We’re also investigating having CCTV from one end of the village to the other, but we’re only in the early stages of looking at how that could work and possible funding,” he added.
But concerns were raised by the audience over the lack of lighting across the villages as well as reduced police numbers due to cuts from central government.
One attendee asked: “Is this problem just going to come back when the extra police are taken away when the crimes stop – then do we just start all over again?”
Ideas for a Business Watch were raised by Joe Curran from Oldham Council’s Community Safety Team which supports businesses across the borough.
“There is a Pub Watch online where publicans can log in and share information securely, and perhaps there could be something similar for businesses,” he suggested.
The Oldham Borough Police team can be contacted by calling 0161 8568825 or email email@example.com or call 101 in a non-emergency or 999 in an emergency.