A PETITION calling for the immediate reinstatement of a neighbourhood police base has been handed in amid concerns over rising anti-social behaviour.

Residents and councillors from Mill Hill in Blackburn said the lack of a police presence in the area has led to criminals thinking they can do whatever they want.

Following a packed community meeting in December, a petition was started calling for the reinstatement of the neighbourhood police base, which used to be in Mill Hill Community Centre until neighbourhood officers moved to the Ainsworth Street hub in Blackburn town centre in October 2017.

The hub replaced the neighbourhood sites at Blackburn railway station, Bank Top Community Centre, Bangor Street Community, Mill Hill Community Centre and Audley and Queen’s Park neighbourhood learning centre.

Blackburn with Darwen neighbourhood inspector Martyn Holt accepted there had been a spike in anti-social behaviour (ASB) in Mill Hill and other areas of Blackburn late last year and said patrols had been stepped up in response. However, he said there were no plans to reinstate any of the old bases.

Mill Hill and Moorgate councillor Damian Talbot said residents were concerned about rising crime and felt it was directly linked to there no longer being a permanent police presence in the area. He said while this petition was specifically about Mill Hill, he would be keen for bases to be reinstated throughout the borough.

Cllr Talbot said: “It was a police decision to retreat into the town centre. The perception is there is less of a police presence in the community. People appreciate there have been cutbacks. Just the presence of officers would make a huge difference.

“There’s been an increase in anti-social behaviour, there’s been an increase in quite serious vandalism where windows have been smashed. There was an assault in the Spar shop in December.

“There is a growing sense there is not someone there to enforce the law so people can get away with what they like.”

Insp Holt said: "We are aware of concerns raised in previous months over the level of anti-social behaviour (ASB) in Mill Hill; as a result we have listened to those concerned have been working together with members of the public along with local councillors to try and tackle the issues that face our community.

"We would like to reassure residents of Mill Hill that we have responded to those concerns and have been targeting hot spot areas that have been highlighted to us, as well as proactive patrols in the busier areas of Blackburn with Darwen.

"Mill Hill along with many other areas saw a spike in ASB in and around the Hallowe'en and bonfire night period, and unfortunately, we found that this continued into December.

"Local officers will continue to police the streets of Mill Hill and respond to public concern; however, there are no current plans to reinstate the base we previously had in Mill Hill.

"Officers remain centrally based in the town centre, but still have the same responsibility and ownership as they had before for the south west of Blackburn.

"Please do speak with us if you see us on the streets and we will always be happy to work with you to tackle any community concerns you have.

"If you experience ASB in the area, please contact us by filling in an online report, or contact us on 101. Remember, if there is a threat to life it's always 999."

Mill Hill resident Sam Barker said: “People may think twice about committing crime if there is a physical police presence in Mill Hill. Since they have closed the base at the community centre things have got a lot worse.”