Young people from the X-Zones project.
Tackling the sticky issue of anti-social behaviour
The message to potential troublemakers is short and sweet: the only tricks they face being treated to this Halloween and Bonfire Night are £80 on-the-spot fines, arrest and a criminal record.
Operation Treacle launches today [26th October] and aims to address unacceptable behaviour in all its forms – from criminal damage and fly-tipping to illegal bonfires and attacks on fire crews.
Partners across the borough - including Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service, Wigan Council, Wigan & Leigh Housing, Wigan Leisure & Culture Trust and Greater Manchester Police - have joined forces to take a co-ordinated approach this autumn, during a period historically associated with a marked increase in anti-social behaviour.
John Harding Wigan Borough Commander of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, who are leading on this year’s campaign, said:
“Our aim is to ensure that everyone enjoys this time of year and in order to reinforce this message, we have launched a poster campaign supported by a dedicated website ‘safe4autumn.com’. This features some hard-hitting images and video which illustrates the potentially tragic consequences of playing with fireworks and behaving recklessly around fire. Details of local events across the borough can also be found there.”
A dedicated control room staffed by police and fire officers has been set up to deal with incidents and calls from worried residents; and teams will also monitor CCTV cameras across the borough to reduce the number of attacks on fire crews.
In addition, warning letters have been sent to previous troublemakers and school-based police officers are visiting schools in targeted areas to inform pupils about the penalties for misusing fireworks or building dangerous bonfires. Posters and leaflets have also been distributed to highlight the consequences of anti-social behaviour and criminal damage, and ice/water safety messages.
Chief Superintendent Shaun Donnellan of Greater Manchester Police says:
“Operation Treacle is not designed to put the dampener on people’s fun. However, some residents dread this time of year, because of the marked increase in anti-social behaviour. So this campaign aims to encourage people to show respect for others, act responsibly and enjoy a safe and enjoyable Bonfire Night, preferably at an organised event.”
“It is also a reminder that the possible consequences of being involved in anti-social behaviour include a home visit by police officers, an £80 fine, arrest or a criminal record. Offenders may also be seriously injured or even die due to acting irresponsibly around fireworks and bonfires”
In efforts to address under-age drinking, Wigan Council will be carrying out a number of test purchases at off-licences in hot spot areas, as well as targetting retailers which sell fireworks to under-18s or stock unsafe and illegal fireworks.
“The fortnight around Halloween and Bonfire Night can be fun, especially for children and young people. But sadly, it is also a flashpoint for all kinds of anti-social behaviour. The negative affects of such activity blights neighbourhoods and puts lives at risk,” says Cllr. Kevin Anderson, Wigan Council’s Cabinet Champion for Neighbourhoods. “The success of this campaign lies in team-effort. By working together, Operation Treacle demonstrates that we can co-ordinate our educational, enforcement and safety activities to ensure that children and young people are informed about potential consequences whilst still being encouraged to take part in fun, safe activities.”
A range of activities aimed at children and young people have been laid on across the Borough, designed to keep young people active, safe and off the streets. Altogether over 75 hours of free to access community activities is organised during the fortnight – with an additional 32 hours of sports activities running in half term, costing from £5 per day.
As well as a range of sports development sessions, the hugely popular X-Zones will also be offering activities during the campaign, following a successful pilot which included sports, outdoor pursuits, MC-ing, and street dance.
Sue Astbury, Head of Service (Integrated Support) for Wigan Council's Children and Young People's Services says:
"Wigan Council's Youth Service run positive activities for young people throughout the year and we do acknowledge that at this time of year it is particularly important to have an exciting programme of things to do for young people to get involved in. This project has a real partnership approach, every service has contributed their own specialist areas of research, knowledge and skills to help ensure that this year the Halloween and Bonfire Night period will be a positive experience for children, young people and local communities."
As part of Operation Treacle, dedicated enforcement teams from Wigan Council will also target illegal bonfires and fly-tippers, and anyone caught could face prosecution.
Members of the public can report fly-tipping and dangerous unlit bonfires to the Council's Environmental Services Helpline on 01942 404364, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
To anonymously report any incidents of fire-related anti-social behaviour, please call Firestoppers on 0800 923 9999.