The use of social media to spark vigilante action over robberies in North Kirklees has been attacked by police.

A senior officer told a special meeting that dealing with maverick groups could drag resources away from tracing suspects.

And West Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner vowed that the force would never be too stretched to deal with criminality such as the spate of robberies which have targeted Asian households.

An action plan has now been put together to address rising fears over the ‘truly dreadful’ offences.

Community and police leaders were brought together by Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox to discuss the recent incidents in Batley and Dewsbury.

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff was also present and the meeting was headed by crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson.

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One of the victims recounted his experiences, described by Mrs Cox as ‘harrowing’. The man supported the police view that although the crimes were not racially motivated, Asian households had been disproportionately affected.

Mrs Cox said: “We have put together an action plan so that our communities are safer and more resilient in future and, importantly, remain calm.

Jo Cox MP

“These are some of the most serious types of crime there can be, invading people’s homes, where they have an absolute right to feel safe. The harrowing account we heard from one of the victims shows why these incidents have caused so much alarm.”

Miss Sherriff said: “This meeting was important given the level of unrest in my constituency following these horrendous crimes.

“The details of some of these incidents are truly dreadful and I hope these arrests are a reprieve to the very real fears that have arisen”.

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Community leaders were invited to the meeting by Batley’s Indian Muslim Welfare Association (IMWS), which hosted the meeting.

Police officers from both Batley and Dewsbury were also present, joined by Supt Paul Jeffrey.

Mr Jeffrey said a robbery offence in Batley had led to a manhunt that involved mobilising local officers and additional specialist resources to secure an arrest.

Investigations continue concerning a total of eight men who have been arrested in connection with the robberies.

Supt Paul Jeffrey

However, there was a note of caution from police, who were critical of the response of some residents, especially on social media. WhatsApp and Facebook in particular had been used by a minority of people to spread false information and encourage and organise vigilante actions. This was condemned as unhelpful.

Mr Jeffrey said: “We rely on working closely with residents on crime prevention and developing leads and apprehending suspects. But this needs to be done through official channels. In the first instance by ringing 101.

“If officers are working to apprehend vigilante groups and combat misinformation, this is an unhelpful diversion of resources.”

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “These are some of the most serious types of crime. Our force is steadfast in the determination that, despite budget pressures, we will never be too stretched to deal with this kind of criminality”.