Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Photo loveliness

Just a quick one to pay tribute to the photography in the new edition of Old Trafford News.

We're very lucky to have several talented snappers in the team. See what I mean?

top - Gillian Drayton
All others - Caroline Edge

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Remember me?

Dontcha just hate it when someone starts a new blog, posts something vaguely interesting for a few weeks and then disappears, never to be seen again?

Yeah, me too. That's why you won't catch me disappearing for months at a time. Oh no. Ahem.

Anyway, the short explanation of where I have been is that we were having some problems updating the website for a while, but it is all sorted now. Our new edition is out now, and a fair hunk of it is online too.

We have the cutest cover in the history of publishing, as you can see above. It's taken from our visit to the local PDSA PetAid clinic. They were happy to let us visit so that we could urge people to get their pets microchipped and vaccinated. We were happy to oblige, particularly as it enabled us to get some really cute pictures of small furry dogs wearing an expression that says: 'please, please, please give me back my dignity.'

On more serious matters, our lead news story revisits a police operation that happened on our doorsteps back on March 1st. Operation Jug (where do they get these names?) was billed as an urgent response to immediate intelligence that local gangsters had been hiding firearms in yards and gardens of local residents. What seemed like the entire massed ranks of Greater Manchester Police turned up one morning and proceeded to dig holes in our gardens and parks, break into our sheds and garages and turn a fair few residents out of bed to search their houses. Had the operation succeeded in finding large arsenals and catching the bad guys, there would be no objections from us. Unfortunately it didn't quite turn out that way. We put in a Freedom of Information request and the basic facts we turned up were as follows.

  • Search warrants exercised: 278

  • Police staff involved: 369

  • Vehicles involved: 56

  • Number of firearms seized: 2

Although five people were initially arrested in connection with gang-related offences and attempted murder following the raids, only one man from Moss Side was prosecuted for possession of ammunition. He was subsequently given 80 hours of community service and ordered to pay £45 costs. That won't go far in recouping the costs of the operation, which were a phenomenal £63,740

Gun crime is a massive concern for us in Old Trafford. On the day we went to print, one man was sent down for 28 years for an attempted murder that happened last December in a local park. There will be no tears from us about the length of term.

But we have to ask whether Operation Jug was worth the cost. We don't just mean the financial cost, we are talking about the impact on relations with the community, on the faith that we have in the intelligence which the police are using, and crucially, the trust we have when the police ask for our co-operation. We were slightly disappointed that the reaction to our inquiries about Jug were defensive and unapologetic. Police continue to insist that the operation was an unmitigated success. Which leads us to wonder what an unsuccessful operation would look like.

At OTN we're not in the habit of nitpicking and whingeing at police or other service providers, and we fully acknowledge that the police have an enormously difficult task on their hands to tackle gang-related violence in the area, and we recognise their achievements when we see them. But we would be failing in our responsibility to our community if we didn't also acknowledge such high-profile and potentially damaging failures.

Anyway, that is only the first few pages of the new OTN. Have a look around the site and you will find much more. Meet the Old Trafford women's football club; learn about the new drugs service in the area; discover the Women of Substance; or check out what residents reckon are the hottest looks in fashion.

And keep an eye on this blog too, because I've got much more to tell you in the near future.

No really, I promise.