Armed Police to patrol Christmas markets – ‘Feel safer and more relaxed’

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The markets, which are largely based at Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre, opened to the public this morning. And with most of the festivities being cancelled last year because of the pandemic, this year is due to attract bumper crowds.

Thousands of these visitors are expected to be tourists.

In an effort to reassure the public, Greater Manchester Police announced that there will be an increased police presence.

This will include a number of armed officers, as well as plain clothed officers and PCSOs, they confirmed.

Police say they want to reassure the public that this is not in response to any specific threat, but to provide visible reassurance.

Several firearm officers were spotted patrolling the stalls at Piccadilly Gardens today, with the public being encouraged to say hello or smile at them.

Superintendent Graeme Openshaw, of GMP’s Specialist Operations Branch, said: “As front line responders we understand that the public want to see more officers out and about in Greater Manchester, particularly when they are at large events.

“We hope by increasing our armed officer visibility, it shows that we do listen to feedback and this move will make you feel safer and more relaxed while out enjoying yourselves.

“I know some people can find armed officers intimidating and might feel nervous about seeing them.

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“However we’d like to reassure people that they are there to help in any way they can, just like unarmed officers you’d see on patrol.

“They are normal people just like you and me, with families and friends, and I am sure that they would appreciate hellos, smiles and friendly words whilst carrying out their duties.

“Our number one priority is keeping the public safe and if this increased visibility helps people feel more at ease, then we see this as a positive step.”

Manchester City Council said the Winter Gardens will be open until January.

Pat Karney, Manchester’s Christmas spokesperson, said: “It’s wonderful to welcome back our world-famous Christmas Markets and the addition of the Winter Gardens for the very first time.

“Manchester has been the capital of Christmas for 22 years since the very first Christmas Market arrived in the UK in 1999 and we know it was a huge disappointment that we had to scale back our celebrations last year.

“We’re making up for lost time this year and I can’t wait to see the transformation in the city centre into the festive wonderland we know and love.

“Of course, all of our attractions have public health at their heart and the safety of our visitors will be paramount. Covid remains a real concern and we will have strict maximum numbers in some areas like the Winter Gardens to make sure people can maintain their distance – and security will be helping us manage crowds.

“Only a few weeks to wait until the most wonderful time of the year begins in Manchester – Santa’s favourite city, of course.”

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