POLICE have slammed “unhelpful rumour mongering” as false reports of rioting in Blackpool spread on social networking sites.
Tuesday night saw violence spread from London to Manchester and Salford – and many residents feared the resort could be next.
Television images of shops being looted and torched were on every channel and led some stores across the Fylde coast to close their doors early.
And as violence erupted, there was a flurry of posts on social networking websites Facebook and Twitter with rumours of local trouble.
Some hinted at pockets of disorder on Central Drive, South Shore, Grange Park, Marton and in St Annes.
But the streets remained calm and look to remain so according to Assistant Chief Constable Peter White of Lancashire Police.
He said: “We’ve seen lots of speculation across the social media and urge people not to get caught up in unhelpful rumour mongering.
“It causes unnecessary concern and in the worst case scenario, may encourage unrest.
“Social media sites are routinely monitored and anyone found to be inciting violence or disorder in this way will be dealt with by police.”
Not all posts were negative. There has been a flare-up of civic pride with one Facebook group named “Not Rioting In Blackpool Because For Once It Looks Good-ish” getting more than 1,000 “like” hits.
Administrators for the group said they were against the riots and appealed for “sand dwellers” to be calm.
And in the town centre, the message was to make sure everything is in order in case looters try to raid premises.
Town centre manager Eileen Ormond told The Gazette: “The main message is make sure your business is ready in case the worst happens.
“Doors and windows need to be locked and make sure CCTV is working. Update police with the right details for your key holder and it’s worth making sure you have access to a glazier.
“Take cash out and leave till drawers open so nobody tries to force them open. We haven’t had too many queries from local businesses to be honest.”
On the streets, residents spoke of their disgust. Malcolm Jones, 67, from St Annes said: “I think the riots are disgusting and I don’t think they’ve got a point at all.
“Standards have dropped in this country across the board.”
Police in Wyre also warned they were prepared.
Insp Nigel Greenwood, based at Fleetwood, said: “We have extra staff throughout Wyre.
“If anyone starts creating trouble they will be dealt with very robustly.”