Headlines: April 28th, 2004

A report out today says pressure for more police officers on the beat has led to more private patrolling of housing estates using security guards, community support officers, neighbourhood wardens, ‘active citizen’ volunteers and officers provided under contract by police forces. This has left the public confused about what the various services can do to deal with crime.The research, for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says the roles of these additional policing services are often unclear, and that people are left confused about their responsibilities and what can be expected of them in tackling crime. The study highlights uneven co-ordination and weak accountability and it calls for new regional regulation arrangements to be introduced to ensure fairer competition between the different providers, as well as more effective policing.

The study was conducted by Adam Crawford and Stuart Lister of the University of Leeds. They combined surveys of security firms, social housing providers and police forces with an examination of the different types of additional patrol being used in Yorkshire and Humberside.

They found that police forces and private security firms both regarded additional policing as a potentially valuable source of revenue. Two-thirds of police divisional commanders and finance directors saw it as an important way of increasing their income and security companies identified residential services as their greatest potential growth area for the next five years. More than half the housing associations and council housing departments in the survey said they had become a lot more concerned about crime and disorder issues in recent years. Three out of four believed the police needed to improve the accreditation and co-ordination of work by other security and patrolling services.

The authors found wide variations across Yorkshire and Humberside in the use and visibility of additional policing and the report says the division of tasks between the different types of patrol tended to be poorly organised. Relations between the providers varied from effective co-operation to indifference, competition and hostility. Some police officers still felt that patrolling by others was a hindrance rather than a help.

The report concludes that all the initiatives in the study highlighted the importance of engaging with local residents, exploiting their knowledge of local crime problems and providing them with a stake in the success of community policing efforts. Professor Crawford said, “Greater mutual understanding and trust are essential if the local delivery of community policing by different providers, with different roles and powers, is to become a joined-up endeavour. There is an urgent need for better local liaison between the police, crime and disorder partnerships and the private sector.”