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It is with regret that I have already started to see the significant impact that Coronavirus is having on your businesses and I only begin to imagine the subsequent impact on your family lives. I have been approached with a number of concerns around safety, security and police response to supporting businesses at this time, the purpose of this update is to hopefully answer some of your questions with the information I have available to myself at this time.
I have been approached most about the potential for civil disorder and the feeling that your premises are vulnerable. I can’t predict what will happen in the coming weeks and months, however I can give you some idea of the plans I have implemented within the city centre and those that GMP as a collective police service have in place.
Our city centre team are working in close partnership with CityCo to identify premises which have closed, those with changed or reduced opening hours and those who remain open. We are in constant contact with updates and your issues are being raised directly with my leadership team and myself. This information and intelligence from CityCo has been used to inform the patrol plans for my officers and PCSOs, these form a dedicated high profile public and business reassurance operation.
Several of my officers have volunteered to change their shifts to work night duties between the hours of 9pm-7am, patrolling the city centre to protect residents and businesses.
GMP operational planning includes a dedicated specialist Public Order Commander on standby with suitable resources to enact contingency plans if required. I am hoping that we as a community will all pull together to ensure this is a precaution that never needs to be utilised.
The key message I want to deliver is prevention. I would ask that you continue to take suitable precautions for your own premises. Unfortunately there is no doubt that some criminals will seek to take advantage of the situation. In order to deter, I would ask that any cash is removed from your premises with any high value items placed into secure storage/stock areas rather than left on public display.
The more that we as a partnership can seek to deny criminals the opportunity to cause harm, the better our limited resources can be deployed.
If you employ, and are able to retain, your own security companies then this is a significant advantage as we can respond more effectively when better information is passed or CCTV is being viewed in live time. I do however appreciate that his may not be possible due to financial constraints.
To those premises that are remaining open, most notably the stores selling essential food and toiletries, may I thank you first and foremost for supporting the communities of Manchester. I am aware of your concerns that as the ongoing pandemic continues, you may be vulnerable to increased levels of theft and some have raised concerns about threats towards staff and colleagues.
I will do everything I can to support you in the coming weeks in two ways. Firstly by working closely with the CityCo Business Crime Reduction Partnership to target individuals and groups who repeatedly target our businesses causing damage, fear and financial loss. Whilst I cannot guarantee immediate police response, what I can ensure you is that we are working to target those who repeatedly cause the highest levels of harm across our city centre.
The second area is by helping those who unfortunately have fallen on difficult times, seeking to reduce and remove any need they may have to obtained goods by anything other than legal means. I have been in close contact with Greater Manchester Combined Authority as well as Manchester City Council – we are seeking to continue to improve our offer utilising close partnerships with the charity and voluntary sector.
I have ensured that my dedicated street engagement team have the capacity and capability to continue the partnership work that addresses the needs of our street sleeping community. You will all have previously heard about the fantastic work that has been ongoing at our Street Engagement Hub – this has been having an impact across Manchester city centre and will continue to do so as we develop more effective ways of engaging with and assisting all our communities.
Due to the health advice around gatherings of people the physical element of the Street Engagement Hub has been paused temporarily, I am however working with key partners to develop an enhanced outreach model at this time, with the aim of supporting the community, reducing the impact on your businesses and ensuring a safer city centre.
With the schools closing I am anticipating an increased number of young people attending and congregating within the city, whilst I am keen to stress the public health guidance in relation to large gatherings we now have the powers to disperse.
I have an Inspector dedicated to reviewing and planning our response to any increase in anti-social and criminal behaviour from young people, they have been working in close partnership with the Manchester City Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour team as well as some key retailers who often experience ongoing issues. We have launched a plan with multi-agency resources – this will be continually reviewed and our response adapted based on identified hotspots and government guidance to push towards a safe environment for all.
I would urge all businesses to be aware of and report any suspect activity where you consider there to be a risk of sexual or criminal exploitation, there will without doubt be a number of very vulnerable young people coming into the city centre in the coming weeks – as a community we need to protect them.
I do reserve some concerns in relation to hate crime and raised tensions within the population of Manchester, as the situation becomes more drawn out there is the potential for a further increase. Can I please ask you push kindness and tolerance with your staff and colleagues, we need to work closer together at this time rather than place barriers between communities. If you are aware of any hate related incidents or crime please can you make GMP aware through the hate crime portal online or via 101.
I will endeavour to provide further updates in the coming weeks as the situation develops. In the interim I am more than happy for you to raise concerns or questions to me via CityCo.
With Kind Regards, Zac Fraser
Chief Inspector, City Centre Neighbourhood Policing Team
Greater Manchester Police