COUNCILLORS are demanding a police crackdown after a spike in crime and disorder issues in Stalybridge during lockdown.
Political figures on each side of the political divide have voiced concerns about an increase in drug dealing, begging and stealing in the town in recent weeks.
Cllr David Sweeton, who represents Stalybridge/Dukinfield ward, took a police chief on a tour of the crime hotspots.
And Cllr Liam Billington, who represents Stalybridge South and lives in the town centre, has personally witnessed criminal activity.
Cllr Sweeton explained he had been alerted about the issues.
He has taken up the baton saying it is giving the town a bad name and undermining the good work of Stalybridge Town Team to promote it as a place to visit.
Cllr Sweeton said: “I have always had a big thing about drugs, having never taken them and having never got into what they are about as they wreck families and lives.
“I have been made aware by residents and constituents about the issues.
“Whether it is because there are less people in the town centre and less traffic on the roads, but drug dealing has become more visible.”
Cllr Sweeton added drug dealers are using cover as beggars in the town centre.
He continued: “Tesco have told me since lockdown there has been a different set of beggars and homeless on the streets.
“They are more sinister, more dangerous and answer back and are involved in criminal activity.
“Drug dealers are dropping people off outside the supermarket and, once they get money, are returning to do drug deals with them.”
Cllr Billington added: “They say they are homeless, but they aren’t.
“They are drug addicts looking for people to pay for their fixes and by giving them money all they are doing is feeding their drug habit.
“I support the police clampdown on individuals who are causing misery for others.”
Cllr Billington is also deeply concerned the drug dealers are increasingly involving children.
He said: “What upsets me more than anything is drug dealers are involving teenage children.
“That is alarming and when it involves kids, it crosses the line.
“People talk about child sexual exploitation, but this is child criminal exploitation and social services need to be involved.
“We need more individual responsibility from parents to know what their children are doing.”
He also been alerted to an increase in shoplifting in Stalybridge town centre which he believes is related to the issues.
Cllr Sweeton took Inspector Andy Holden on a walking tour of the town centre to identify troublespots which include the canal, Armentieres Square and Castle Street.
That included Gorse Hall Country Park which was the setting for an illegal rave early on during lockdown with Cllr Sweeton critical of the police for not breaking it up.
An estimated 160 people aged between 16 and 40 for the rave where drug and alcohol were alleged to have been in plentiful supply and loud music was an additional nuisance for residents.
Cllr Billington pointed out criminal activity will deter shoppers and visitors to Stalybridge.
He said: “It is sad these people are making the town look dossy when there is a great momentum to shop local and back individual businesses.
“Decent people may come in for the first time, see what is going on and say no way are they coming back, and they will go back to their old shopping habits.
“We have got to get in right now and nip it in the bud before it becomes a greater problem further down the line.
“Stalybridge town centre is a great place to live, but there are some issues to deal with.”
The Correspondent left a voicemail for Insp Holden who had not replied by the time the paper went to print.