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  1. Published on: 12/10/2017 08:45 AMReported by: rogerblaxall
    It was billed as an arresting night at Aughton Parish Council, and so it proved, as Roger Blaxall reports from its October meeting.

    It’s rare nowadays to see any police officers at Aughton Parish Council – and rarer still for them to speak for an hour unscripted - and get a well deserved round of applause, to boot...

    But that was the case at Aughton PC on Monday night when a small but appreciative audience heard Ch Insp. Jill Halliwell on her first – but hopefully not last – visit to the monthly meeting to give a fascinating overview of policing in the southern parishes.

    Policing – or the perceived lack of it – is always a hot topic in Aughton but the Ch. Insp. (dubbed a Sandra Bullock lookalike by one wag) rose to the challenge as she outlined her policing priorities to parish councillors and around 15 members of the public.

    It’s now clear that her priorities and those of the parish councillors won’t always mesh but as the late great Bruce Forsyth used to say ‘I’m in charge' and the Ch.Insp. laid the law down to that effect, wasting no time in revealing that high value car crime, cross border crime and drug related crime top her ‘to do’ list on a regular basis while she also addressed the matter of speeding, anti social behaviour and the continued importance of Aughton's police post.

    From taking to her feet at around 7.50 she spoke for roughly an hour, occasionally referring to Sgt. Dave Rigby for help – and at the end of it, locals were in no doubt that Police are deadly serious about their priorities.

    Number one is targeting the crime gangs who are coming into places like Aughton specifically to steal high value cars. CI Halliwell was most concerned that owners of prestige German makes should not put themselves at risk by simply hiding the keys in their homes and advised on simple precautions like garaging a car, installing an anti theft bollard on the driveway and visibly immobilising cars every night to thwart car criminals who like a quick getaway in all senses of the word...

    She explained how many cars are either exported or destined for chop shops to be broken for valuable parts.

    “I drive an older Vauxhall so it doesn’t worry me that much” she said as an aside.

    “I don’t want to criticise anyone in Aughton for aspiring to a car like an Audi, Mercedes, BMW and the like but please be aware that cars like these are targets,” she said - ironically a car alarm was activated twice outside as she spoke.

    She said that the police had done a good job in disrupting gangs of drug dealers and extolled the benefits of ringing Crimestoppers (0800 555 111) with any snippets of information which could be fed into the force’s Intel system to build up a picture of local criminality.

    And addressing the lack of a Community Beat Manager she revealed that a 'very experienced officer' would soon be policing the leafy parish, with a popular PCSO moving to pastures new with Essex Police being replaced.

    There’s lots of policing issues in Aughton which are not unique to the area including anti social behaviour (often by outsiders), speeding – tractor drivers being identified as the main culprits on Long Lane – and a general lack of confidence in the way police deal with Neighbourhood Watch but following Ch Insp. Halliwell’s address, it looks like nerves have been settled and policing is on a firmer foundation for the future.

    All this, of course was against a backdrop of a massive reduction in officer numbers with Lancashire the third worse force in the country when it came to swingeing government cuts; thankfully, recruitment is one the rise in the Constabulary and the Ch. Insp. confirmed that she had enough officers for the special squads that police west Lancashire 24/7 in overt and covert roles. The meeting also heard that an ASBO car will soon be on duty locally manned by two officers try to nip any related Halloween and Bonfire Night issues in the bud.

    The Ch. Insp. left the meeting on a high note, revealing at 9pm that she'd been on duty since 7.30am as she chatted to QLocal’s Roger Blaxall in the village hall foyer before leaving for home.

    The overwhelming conclusion of the meeting seems to be that policing is in safe hands locally although only time will tell if the address by the Ch Insp. will stand the test of time...

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