Four in five crimes in lawless Plungington go unsolved - so why doesn't the area have any dedicated police officers?

There are no dedicated police officers carrying out foot patrols in Plungington, where the majority of crooks get away with their crimes.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 3:40 pm

Just two Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs), who don't have the power to make arrests, are assigned to the area, which has been plagued by stabbings, druggies, shoplifters, and perverts in recent months.

An average of three crimes every day are being reported to Lancashire Police, with 78 per cent going unpunished, a Post investigation can today reveal.

In the majority of collapsed cases, officers failed to even identify a suspect.

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Plungington has suffered from a number of crime issues in recent months, but there are no police officers carrying out foot patrols there

Charges were brought or summons issued in just 131 out of 2,014 cases investigated from November 2018 to the end of August this year, figures released under freedom of information laws showed.

Local councillor Pav Ahktar, whose family has lived in the area for over four decades, said: "I know the community will be disappointed that so many crimes go unresolved but I also know that the small neighbourhood police team that covers our area - among a few others - deserves credit for the job it does in difficult circumstances.

"As bad as the data looks, can we really criticise the work of our police without pointing out that they're trying to deliver a service with bare-bone resources?

"I worked with residents in my community long before I got elected to Preston Council.

Lancashire Police admitted there are no police officers carrying out foot patrols in Plungington

"What's clear from all those I've spoken to is that Plungington has had a spike in anti-social behaviour and drug or alcohol-related crime."

Coun Ahktar, a Labour councillor, said some of the problems are "easy to spot" and include buildings being turned into bedsits full of "high-needs people who are often not getting the support they need".

He added: "The Covid lockdown has laid bare the scale of these problems."

Earlier this year, the Post reported how around 50 police officers were involved in a string of operations, with some going undercover, while a number of drugs raids were carried out.

More than £1 million of drugs and hundreds of thousands of pounds were seized in over a dozen searches, and 44 men and women were arrested.

The force also set-up a dedicated email address, which was bombarded by more than 50 messages in just two weeks from frustrated neighbours.

"We decided to go ourselves, looking at what was happening, with lots of covert policing in plain clothes," neighbourhood Sgt Emma Walker said.

"We saw a lot of drug use; not a lot of crime, but quite visible issues. That's quite impact for the community."

But drugs are not the only issue.

Not only was there a burglary reported once every three days on average last year, with no suspects identified in 159 out of 213 cases since late 2018, a number of other high profile crimes have also made headlines recently.

A 23-year-old man was stabbed outside the Co-op in Plungington Road by a knifeman who leapt off a motorbike to launch his attack.

A swastika was daubed on the wall of The Good Van Company in Brook Street, opposite the Brook Tavern pub, during the Jewish New Year festivities.

A man was caught pleasuring himself in Ashmoor Street but, despite him being seen by a 16-year-old girl, police only ordered him to pull his pants up before letting him go.

And workers at the Spar, also in Plungington Road, who are known to escort vulnerable customers to protect them from street louts gathering outside, were forced to put security tags on packets of meat to stop them being pinched by shoplifters.

Over the past 12 months, anti-social behaviour has been reported the most (610 times), followed by violent and sexual offences (408), and criminal damage or arson (111).

Michelle Kirkby, who runs the Plungington Crime Watch group, said anti-social behaviour is by far the biggest issue, with drug pushers openly dealing in public unafraid of being caught.

"The police are not doing enough still," she said, suggesting she only sees an officer on the street "once in a blue moon".

"There's just not enough" of them, she added, saying more officers and tougher punishments could help.

"It's just a case of do what you want at the minute.

"It's frustrating."

Lancashire Police did not respond to a request for answers to a number of questions.