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Cop out

Lynda Moyo finds we're not allowed to know how many Police officers are patrolling the City centre on weekend evenings.

Written by . Published on April 18th 2007.


Cop out

Ask a simple question, get a simple answer. Right? Wrong.

Over the past month Manchester Confidential has been playing 'Where's Wally?' with Police on the streets of Manchester city centre at weekend evenings. There are sporadic sightings here and there but we wanted to know just exactly how many officers were on duty - in other words the physical numbers of the police visible to the public and ready for action. This visible presence would reassure the public and stop drunken violence occurring.

So Confidential asked a simple question. 'How many Police were on the streets of Manchester city centre on Friday 23 March 2007 after 11pm?' We also asked a subsidiary question about what the city centre area actually constituted? If the boundaries of this district were drawn widely into inner suburb areas then that would make the policing even thinner.

The two questions turned into a merry-go-round of replies. First off we thought the City Council might know:

'Information on staffing levels should be directed to Greater Manchester Police, who will also have details on crime levels within the city centre. The levels of policing in Manchester city centre are part of Greater Manchester Police Authority's remit. As part of the partnership that exists between the City Council, bars and others, the level of policing is often under review and the numbers change as circumstances and events take place.'

But that wasn't the question we asked.

The GMP Information Access Team got straight to the point. No messin'. Their reply was, 'We are not obliged to supply the information that you have requested. The exemption applicable to the information is Section 31 Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Law Enforcement - sub section (a) the prevention or detection of crime.'

Lovely use of English: we pressed for clarification. So the GMP Public Relations Department expanded, sort of, with the raw truth. They said: 'GMP can't give any figures, not even through the Freedom of Information Act, because it may make criminals target the area if such criminals felt the figures were low.'

In other words we're not going to tell you so bugger off.

Surely if the Police were confident that they have sufficient officers patrolling Manchester city centre at peak periods, they would say how many. And we're sure that any hardened criminals who happen to be Manchester Confidential readers wouldn't need us to tell them how many officers are on city centre streets. They probably have their own intelligence.

In any case most of the observable crime seems caused by drink not by organised crime syndicates. All we want is a very visible presence. Not to say that there should be a cop on every corner. Not every corner needs it but if we knew exactly how many Police are around to protect us at peak weekend times, we'd be able to work out which corners do need it.

If our Police were confident in their work they would assertively and boldly answer: 'On Friday 23 March 2007 there were X number of Police employed to actively patrol Manchester city centre. By Manchester city centre we are referring to all areas within the boundaries of X, Y and Z.'

As it stands we don't know how well we are policed. The Police feel that releasing the data would compromise the public's safety. But the fact that they can't supply the public with the figures compromises the public's faith in the Police.

This isn't to say that Confidential feels the city centre is a dangerous place. We love it. We won't be doing any silly campaigns about it being 'lawless', we won't be showing the same picture of the same poor drunken girl slumped in a doorway over and over again.

The city centre is our playground, we use it relentlessly, we know what we're talking about, but as tax payers, as citizens, as the constitutional bosses of those civil servants, the Police, we feel we have the right to know exactly how many Bobbies are on the beat at flashpoint times. After all we're not asking about sensitive terrorist investigations.

It's scandalous that the Freedom of Information Act can be used to deny this information. It's shocking that the Police hide behind it. It shows how far this Government has taken us down an authoritarian road, in which they, the Police and others can dictate what we should know and when. They're treating us like children. It's frightening.

What do you think? Have your say.

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49 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

In the KnowApril 18th 2007.

Lets just say, someone very close to me used to work as a copper out of Bootle Street, City Centre. At times, you could count the numbers on the beat on your digits! Very dangerous for the coppers & people needing help. An absolute delight for the criminals!!! Something reminds me that Manchester City Centre has the most crimes per square foot in Europe. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Sean FinneganApril 18th 2007.

If you want to see how bad this situation really is compare, the figure's over a 4hour period over 4 weeks between city center(approximately castlefield to the northern quarter, bordered by deansgate and whitworth street corridors)and that of Didsbury (east and west). You will find that didsbury has more officers per capita than town! However this must be measured against the fact's that our fat cat council underfund our police, we have a massive deficit in the numbers of police across greater manchester and that if you want more police outside your venue you can pay to have them there, in a plain clothes or uniformed variety. "Pay per Plod" anyone?

AnonymousApril 18th 2007.

have a look outside the printworks any evening - there are more police than on match day in morcambe, there are sniffer dogs, camera people, vans, under cover cops, cops in bioler suits, cops in high vis jackets, this is where police spend the evening. But think yourself lucky, i was on a night out in manchester at a friends club when over 30 police all in high vis jackets with tv cameras came in looking for binge drinkers and underage drinkers......i think thats overkill.

TimN4April 18th 2007.

I asked this question to a WPC that took a witness statement from me 18 months ago. She told me that the city centre is searated into North and South areas, and the North area has 12 Police officers on duty on a Saturday night. Apparently this is to cope with the extra 60,000 visitors to the city centre. Explains a lot....

heweyApril 18th 2007.

The police can't actively work the streets any where else in the city centre at the weekends because they are all on duty in the Printworks where they can be seen to arrest anyone for the more serious crimes like spitting or falling over. When they are not doling out arrests they are walking through venues ruining the atmosphere with their showy arrogance. All this at a cost of £50 per officer, per hour that GMP want to charge back to printworks units! It's they who want booking if you ask me.

The PublisherApril 18th 2007.

OK, guys, its pretty simple really. Do we have enough police in the city centre at night or not. we started by asking a simple question and did not recieve a simple reply. Therefore, we believe something is wrong. Stop beating people here at ManCon up and start asking Mike Todd at GMP a few lucid questions.

Jonathan SchofieldApril 18th 2007.

Jerry, we wanted to know so we could inform people of the number of officers and say either: a) good, the apparent lack of officers is merely anecdotal and that we appear to have sufficient numbers; b) that's not enough people and we need more on the streets. The fact that we weren't allowed to know anything about it over rode those concerns.

Elizabeth ClarkApril 18th 2007.

Police on the street is not the only area they're skimping in. My partner was summonds to court because the police refused to buy any fixed pentaly tickets. It took many phone calls and eventually a disgruntled police officer spilled the beans. As of January 07 no fixed pentaly tickets has been bought since before May'06! As if the courts aren't busy enough without having to deal with standard fixed penalty notices. Not only that the people summonds without fixed pentaly notices were supposed to be dealt with in a different manner to people on a normal summonds, however die to a cock up at the courts they weren't. It took days of phone calls to sort out. So there's your answer. The police aren't on the streets because they're sorting out the admin fracas due to some plonker not buying any fixed penalty tickets. Either that or they're saving the cash for thier christmas party.

JamesApril 18th 2007.

Tactical Aid Units seem to be all around at the weekend (or maybe it's just the one doing laps?). The seem to have the emphasis on punishment rather than prevention though as they only appear to stop when (i think) a CCTV operator directs them somewher. I'm not sure bobbies walking around would be that effective, a lorry load of truncheoners works quite well to suddenly break something up, not sure 2 or 3 on feet would do so well.

BenApril 18th 2007.

I recently had to put up with about a dozen kids vandalising a car outside my flat near the city centre.It was over the weekend and there was about a dozen of them, so rather than tackle them myself, called the police. They referred me to the anti-social behaviour unit, which I phoned, only to be told 'could I call back on Monday, as they don't work weekends...!' Sadly, if the police are drowning underneath anything like the amount of paper work, health and safety/ targets and other stuff, it's not surprising they're not on the street... they're too busy doing paperwork. I think bureaucracy will finally grind this country to a halt.

Jonathan SchofieldApril 18th 2007.

Editor of the site here. We don't want to censor the messages you send in as such but we have to be careful. However folks, it does seem that some of you are straying a little from the point of the article which was about the lack of transparency with regard to the question we asked. The article is about whether we have the right to know certain information or whether the Police should be allowed to withhold it

SteveApril 18th 2007.

you people are really funny you know that! My neighbour is a bobby in the city centre & they have 1 tought & demanding job! maybe the public doesnt see it this way but they risk there lives when they are out - at anytime / place anything can happen! on a friday & sat night they have over 20 extra offices plotted in various places & still have the normal shift working in the printworks or the village & peter street. When theres to many you complain they ruin our nite & when u dnt c them maybe coz they are dealing with an incident you complain again! when u call 999 depending on the incident the time is allocated. You think that they should come to see you for a stolen bag once the offender has gone before they go 2 c some1 who is getin there head kicked in?

tweedledumApril 18th 2007.

what a load of twaddle some of you speak! granted their may not always be a PO in every bar or on every street but by christ, has any of you ever worked for the police? do you REALLY know what goes on, or realise how stressful a job it is? if i were out in town on a weekend night i'm more concerned about why there's a lack of bar staff to serve you! no wonder people get fraught and wound up to a point of needless violence because they spend most of their night waiting to get a drink, only to be ripped off for it an hour later when they finally get served and then get half it knocked over by someone dancing like a loonball! a pointless article if you ask me- and it just shows how very little work journalists have if this is the best that they can do sigh>

BertieApril 18th 2007.

Patently I was referring to the clause I, yes, quoted! I know it's hard to follow more than a couple of sentences when they're put together, but do try and keep up.

EMApril 18th 2007.

You tell them Moyo. Its a case of police hiding behind their little fingures

MR BROWN - PLATOONApril 18th 2007.

Good article Moyo - It is a very good point, U never see Police walking the streets after-dark in Manchester..... Although they regularly pass thru PLATOON 20 deep when we have our nights on "patrol", personally I think they roll round town in their "Tactical Aid" Limo an go to every club, have a lil two minute dance in each place, maybe get a few drinks on the snide by showing their 5-0 card at the bar.....

Ms H ColeApril 18th 2007.

Most of the article is quotes from the officials themselves so how you can call factual information "sloppy and provocative writing" is beyond me. The Police could easily have answered the question, they just didn't want to and it doesnt take a genius to work out why. Read before u rant PC Bertie!

brett sinclairApril 18th 2007.

What is the point of this article? Obviously the GMP were the ones to ask. Why waste someone's time at the council with this nonsense. No, I don't work for the Council either.Why can't we just have a decent listings magazine.

CeemorrApril 18th 2007.

It is absolutely nonsense to deny us this sort of information when they expect us to pay for the service. Football clubs get this sort of information and are duly billed for the police presence, is our money of less value to the Force than theirs?Surely they could have said more than X officers were on patrol or approximately Y without giving too much of what they perceive to be sensitive information away?

Rob AdlardApril 18th 2007.

There still are problems with crime in the city centre, and many dark dingy streets, even though they are inhabited by many city dwellers paying a great deal in council tax. On my street in the Northern Quarter there are cars broken into regularly, and muggings occur. My neighbours and I have been the victim of crime on our own street, and in our building. I am campaiging for better street lighting, and a change in the environment and appearance of our residential city streets in order to promote a safer, more secure feeling residential city - you can read more details of this on my blog - too much to write for here. Essentially policing is just part of the picture. A dark dingy street with litter and graffiti will have people urinating against buildings and doesn't promote the expansion of city life, a well lit clean street lined with trees feels more residential and shows that we have pride and ownership of our city.Visible poliving is a big part of this picture too. My experience is that the police respond quickly and well when called, but many parts of the city are ignored by patrols, the impression is that they simply travel through our city in vehicles. As a result opportunistic crime is rife, and often an intimidating atmosphere results. If you're not sure what I mean, check out the station approach road in the evening, Piccadilly Gardens and Spar shops city wide.Rob AdlardConservative Candidate for the City Centre

JonathanApril 18th 2007.

Smyth, good points, and we are well aware of the good the Police perform, of the work individual officers put in beyond the call of duty and all that. Please read the article again, it's about the lack of transparency. And no we don't want to be redirected to a website of an annual report we want the voice at the end of the phone or the direct email to tell us what we need. Why should the public do the work? We want to be positive about the Police, no sensible individual would want anything else. Editor of Manchester Confidential.

Phat PatApril 18th 2007.

i used to kno a copper called bertie............. MOYO FOR MAYOR!!!!!!!!!!

BertieApril 18th 2007.

It is worth pointing out that there are another 300 or so PCSOs now operating across the city, financed by the council. Of course, better real police than PCSOs, but better them than wardens or private security. ANd my original point remains--however many police there are, there would never be enough for anyone who is a victim or crime. Releasing the info would be a political hostage to fortune (as we saw from the conservative candidate above)--and so its an entirely sensible move not to release it.

JanieBApril 18th 2007.

No room for any more police on the streets of Manchester..............they are full of traffic wardens!

BertieApril 18th 2007.

And doesn't look like Mancon likes pro-police postings as they took down a previous one of mine. "They're treating us like children. It's frightening." Indeed.

herman shermanApril 18th 2007.

THe police pretend they aren't public servants to the extent that by now they've actually forgotten that they are just that - servants of the public. If the answer to your question is kept secret - does that mean we have a secret police ?!

Smyth Harper, GMPApril 18th 2007.

Having read some of the comments on here, I thought it might be worth putting a response on. First off, and I know you may need some convincing on this, we try our best at GMP to be as open and accountable as we can. On the specific point of exact officer numbers at exact times, that is something we do not want to get into for sound operational reasons. It's not because we are embarrassed about police numbers or want to hide information from the public. If that were the case, we wouldn’t give out any statistical information unless it was in our interests. We publish our annual report on our website at www.gmp.police.uk/mainsite/pages/annualreport.htm… where you can see a host of statistics – not all of which make comfortable reading for us. Also, and you’ll forgive me for actually wanting to be positive about the force, a team was set up last October to tackle city centre crime. Since then, there have been significant reductions in, for example, vehicle crime and burglary, and reductions in robbery and violence against the person. We’ve achieved that through intelligent, dedicated policing. And those results say much more than a bald figure about officer numbers on the street at any one time. However, we also recognise that if you have been a victim of crime you confidence in us may be dented. We want to have that crime detected and bring those responsible to justice. We want to see Manchester safer and we want to be seen on the streets. There are thousands of people who work at GMP – officers, PCSOs, special constables and police staff – who passionately believe in that. Smyth Harper, Head of Press Office, GMP.

AnonymousApril 18th 2007.

Has anyone ever thought that the lack of officers on the street on a weekend night might be down to the fact that they have locked up the idiots that go into town to get plastered, cause trouble and commit crime. home office guildlines state it takes on average 4 hours to deal with an arrest. This is down to the huge amount of paperwork involved so maybe if this was cut down there would be more bobbies on the beat. Dont blame the bobbie but blame the management and government!

major54April 18th 2007.

we pay their wages,our elected councillors are running the police committee ,we have a right to know how many police on on duty at anytime or are they fast becoming the secret police they would like to be,unanswerable to anyone.Its about time they realised that they are our public servants,we are the paymasters.Its also about time they went back on the beat and put the fear of god into the thugs that try to rule our lives.I will not hold my breath!owld timer

Terri AnneApril 18th 2007.

As a resident of Birmingham who visits Manchester on a regular basis to indulge my passion to dress and be be welcomed around Canal street over the past 10 years. I feel I have to comment.I find that GMP officers are less and less interested in any problems that happen in and around the village. I was badly beaten by a group of BNP chanting youths just last Saturday and the response by the attending officers was "You shouldn't be out dressed during the day" I was in the village area the whole time.Terri Anne.

KiranApril 18th 2007.

i am fast losing faith and confidence in our government and country as it is. issues as simple as this one just make us wonder why the information we are entitled to as wage payers of these civil servants is not supplied to us. either becuase it doesn't exist, or it is too shameful to admit. we pay the wages, we have every right to know what these monies are going towards. MC - i say take the matter further. as uk citizens, it is our right.

chrispaul-labouroflove.blogspot.comApril 18th 2007.

15 to 20 plus TAG and other specialists. Ability to call in more as needed. 50 police in a six shift pattern (over-lapping). This really isn't that hard to find out. The lazy councillors should be telling you. But they aren't good attenders at LAP meetings and even let one of the key ones more or less disband itself. But as an interested party I make it my business to find these things out. The base numbers are more or less based on population of residents I think. But also on recognition of hot spots etc and the fact that there are a lot of visitors. Compared with a football match with half the customers tho the policing is very thin indeed. Then again most of the crime stats are good. Only assault and serious assault resistant to reduction with hotspots at Canal Street and Peter Street. Part of the pattern may be because of more CCTV and all incidents spotted on there going on the stats. Unlike in other wards where there is very little CCTV and most of the scuffling and horseplay goes undeteceted and unreported. The more reported crime the more action. So it is worth making reports even if it seems tedious and futile at the time. It's not. The Lib Dem proposal for 40 bobbies on the council tax is a travesty - like covering a streakers meat and two with a helmet for 5 minutes. They just don't understand.

GApril 18th 2007.

The article's about the right to know and the spurious excuses used to deny this knowledge. Typical. The Freedom of No Information Act 2000, welcome to the emerging Police state.

BoratApril 18th 2007.

I liiike police i want more police especially women police. I want shexy time with the police woman.High fiive

AnonymousApril 18th 2007.

Jonathan, i think it was a pointless question anyway because i think you already knew the answer - there are not enough police and we need more but with no more government funding it is impossible to provide more. If paperwork and red tape were cut maybe there would be more police on the streets which would be a start

AnonymousApril 18th 2007.

The question is not the quantity of officers on patrol but the quality. I was witness to two incidents on Canal Street last friday (13th April)- the first a fight where a licensee was assaulted and the second homophobic chants with approx 50 members of a relgious group, both of which were reported to a police officer. The response to the first incidence was to look with disinterest and not take any notes, and the second time to simply shrugged and told us to refer to the bible. Incidentatly this was the same officer and I have taken his badge number.Surely officers on a busy Friday night in the centre of Manchester City Centre should take note of complaints of these nature. I can empathise that there may be a number of instances where minor complaints are made by drunken individuals, but when a sober member of staff from a bar approaches a police man, presents their identification and makes a complaint, you'd expect to be taken seriously!! Fortunately village doorstaff were on hand to help with both incidents whereas our police that we pay for out of our taxes just simply couldn't be bothered!

jerry the catApril 18th 2007.

Why not ask how many fire tenders are available on a given night in case of a big fire, public servants like police fire ambulance can be drafted in at short notice for major emergencies, I agree the figures should be published but to what avail? unless you are thinking of joining and swelling the ranks Manchester is a very safe city with friendly people who need to be responsible for themselves on a night out.

woodyApril 18th 2007.

In manchester there are area policing teams that cover foot patrols and static points. typicaly 10/15 at the weekend. Mobile fast response units with 5 or 6 deployed into the city and more available from surrounding areas and 10/15 on foot outside the trouble hotspots ie Printworks. An armed response vehicle will patrol the city as will a tactical aid unit with 8 officers on board. At peak times there are typicaly in total about 35/50 officers on duty in the city, thats not including other units such as the robbery unit or Cid etc. Uniform patrols get thinner on the ground as the night wears on because they have to deal with prisoners, which takes quite some time. There seems to be a lot of dissent towards the police, but remember that they do not make the rules but they have to enforce them. Its the government who run the police and allocate spending and whether the police can afford to have more officers.The real question should be how many officers do we have in total. years ago there was a massive recruitment drive. well now there are less officers than 3 years ago because for the money that police are being paid you can earn more in other jobs for doing less, including less paperwork and not having to worry if you will end up in hospital in stead of going home. We really should look at how the government run the police not how many are on the street. Most drunken people dont want to be bothered reporting stuff to the police but if one is there they say things like "i want him arrested", thus the officer has to do somthing about it. This happens all the time. So that officer is then dealing with that incident and not providing a public deterant. Then more time is wasted trying to presecute someone when the all informant wants to do is retract the statement because once they are sober they cannot be bothered.

scaryApril 18th 2007.

It's the same everywhere, for whatever the reason there aren't enough police available when they're needed and no one can argue with that. Plus when they do turn up, as allready mentioned, some just aren't intrested. I've seen this when I was attacked by 4 people in my next door neighbours house, I was knocked unconcious and spent the night in hospital but because I was trying to stop them beating up some one else the policeman believed was "trouble" he did nothing to prosecute the thugs, he didn't even take whitness statements. When a different neighbour was attacked by 2 other neighbours who I saw knock him to the ground and stamp on his head, the excuse for not bringing charges was the victims son would get into trouble for running out of the house with a spanner he'd been fixing his bike with, didn't matter that he was a minor or that he didn't even hit anyone, the police said if the victim pressed charges they'd have to charge his son too! I'm fast loosing confidence in the police and no longer feel safe.

Devils advocateApril 18th 2007.

Why not run a Manchester Confidential "competiton". Who can go out on Friday night and jot down the ID numbers of the most police officers! Then collect all the numbers together, get rid of duplicates and between the drunken readers of this webzine you should get a fairly comprehensive and accurate number to put your minds at rest...

Mr XApril 18th 2007.

Instead of acting, as they used to, like they're here to serve us, the police now seem to see the general public as some kind of annoying adversary to be suppressed. Still, at least you've got police in Manchester. There don't seem to be any in this Cheshire town outside office hours.

AnonymousApril 18th 2007.

I once had my bag stolen in Manchester Piccadilly. I called the police who took 25 minutes to arrive. I went back to the station to give a statement. The police officer when writing the statement put down 'arrived at the scence within 5 minutes after the call' which was a joke. I got chatting to the police officer about police control within manchester and was told that only 2 officers patrol Manchester City Centre. I couldn't believe what i was hearing. The officers were also complaining of how difficult it is for them, especially of a weekend. Back-up is around if needed but only 2 officers patrol. That was early 2006 so maybe things have changed now.

EditorApril 18th 2007.

Chris, if that is the case then that is what we wanted the Police to tell us through their official channels. Ta,Jonathan

AnonymousApril 18th 2007.

I have to agree with Mr X since the relocation of our police station, its a rare sight to see a police officer or patrol car. The incident level have increased massively as new pubs have opened locally. In just 2 minutes a drunk on a bike kicked every car mirror down the street causing over £2000 worth of damage, but were the police bothered - definately not!This problem seems to be wide spread, but i also have to say that all he paperwork they have to do can keep them off the streets for a lot of their shift.

jerry the catApril 18th 2007.

would the bank tell you how much they hold in the vault or when the securicor van delivers, the point is there is no point unless the police are witholding officers from duty if we did know what would you do with the info use it a baton to beat the police with! I dont think the purpose is to congratulate the police on their staffing levels is it.

BertieApril 18th 2007.

Come on, they didn't 'use the FoIA to deny this information', they just refused to release it under one of the (many) exclusions of the Act. Very sloppy and provocative writing. And the real reason must be plain to all. If ever there was a significant incident the MEN, Mancon and the LibDems would leap to attack the numbers of police available. Its a hostage to political fortune. The real answer to the question, of course, is 'never enough.'

X LogicApril 18th 2007.

shameless plug Brown!

AnonymousApril 18th 2007.

It is quite possibly wrong of the GMP to suggest that they can withhold that information under the FOI Act. The geographical area is large enough for releasing such information not to lead to criminals targeting the area. You should complain to the Information Commissioner's Office, it will probably take about a year to get a decision, but you would have a very strong case. You have the right to complain, so do so!

AnonymousApril 18th 2007.

It's ridiculous! there was a huge fight outside my flat a few weeks ago, called the cops - got an answer and then was being put through to the city centre branch....it rang and rang and rang for 20mins.

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