Jobless could join crime fighters

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THE LONG-TERM unemployed should join civilian patrols on Britain's problem estates and streets as part of a sec- urity drive, according to a government-sponsored report published yesterday.

Ethnic minorities, women and people of all ages should also be encouraged to participate in "neighbourhood warden" schemes, run by local authorities and private firms. Up to 4,000 estates and neighbourhoods have been identified as areas that could benefit from these types of patrols and security projects.

The study, carried out by officials from several government departments, including the Home Office and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, with police and local authority representatives, is the latest move towards establishing a third-tier security force to support the police. The proposals, however, have been criticised as policing on the cheap.

Managers of the Government's New Deal scheme, which is intended to put the long-term jobless back in work, should use civilian patrols as a method of providing training and work, according to the consultative document, entitled Neighbourhood Wardens.

The report says that similar schemes in the Netherlands found that many wardens go on to find employment in the police and private security industry. Of the 50 schemes examined in the British study, eight were already trying to recruit the long-term unemployed, including projects in Liverpool and Hull.

The report adds that, as many long-term unemployed are from ethnic minorities, this would help to boost the number of black and Asian police officers in future years.

Researchers examined 50 schemes whose work included patrolling, looking after empty properties, responding to minor incidents of anti-social behaviour, such as vandalism and neighbourhood disputes, providing tip-offs to the police and council, and visiting victims of crime and vulnerable people.

As well as patrolling, they examined a concierge system, a caretaker and a "neighbourhood support worker" to help to forge links between residents and local organisations.

The report, which will be put out for consultation, also said that a greater cross-section of people should be encouraged to take part. It stated: "Women and ethnic minorities are currently under-represented as wardens."

The report adds: "For those schemes which are set up primarily to address concerns about young people, efforts should be made to involve young people ... similarly, many schemes are targeted at elderly people, and it is therefore important that older people also fill the warden role."

It stresses that "wardens are not to be seen as a substitute for the police or for local authority services".

The report also endorses a set of guidelines drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers. It recommends that neighbourhood wardens should have no extra powers, although they can carry out citizens arrests, and they should wear uniforms that clearly distinguish them from the police. The guidelines also call for "vigorous" regulation of private security and training standards.

Charles Clarke, a Home Office minister, said it would be "absolutely wrong" if the introduction of wardens led to police "retreating" from communities, and insisted that this was not the intention.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, which has staunchly opposed any erosion of police patrols, said it would be taking a "robust" stand against the proposals. Fred Broughton, its chairman, said: "What we do not want are civilians masquerading as police officers on the beat."