Police want civilians on patrol

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The Independent Online
CHIEF CONSTABLES have backed the introduction of civilian street patrols to act as a second security force to help police. The "neighbourhood wardens" will be used to tackle noisy and disruptive neighbours, vandals, litter louts and anti-social behaviour.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) voted to support the introduction of wardens in England and Wales, arguing that it was an "inevitable" and "welcome" development.

The wardens are expected to be trained by the police, but paid for by local authorities and private sponsorship. They will have uniforms and radios to keep in touch with the police.

The move will cause anger among rank-and-file officers who believe it will undermine the role of the "beat bobby".

There are already a small number of local authority-run patrols, notably in Swansea and Sedgefield in Co Durham, but the support of England and Wales' 43 chief constables will lead to a rapid increase in new outfits.

Ian Blair, Chief Constable of Surrey and secretary of the Acpo sub-committee which is drawing up plans for the patrols, said yesterday: "There's a broad recognition among chief officers that neighbourhood wardens are inevitable and should be welcomed. They will provide a visible presence which helps support the police and community."

He added that the wardens would be expected to "deal with minor aspects of anti-social behaviour such as noise, illegal parking in driveways,rubbish dumping and disputes among tenants and neighbours".

He stressed that the wardens would not have police powers, but would be able to make citizen's arrests, which allows anyone to detain a person who has broken the law. "In 90 per cent of cases I'm sure a word in the ear of whoever is being a nuisance will be enough to make them stop."

Two local authorities in Surrey are interested in setting up wardens and Scotland Yard is in discussions with Westminster, Wandsworth and Brent councils in London, about setting up civilian patrol teams made up of local authority employees.

The decision to back the use of wardens was made at Acpo's full council in December, but the outcome has only now been disclosed.

Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation, said: "The public deserves fully trained, accountable, professional police officers and not a cheap alternative."