They believe that the 4,691 wardens in England and Wales could become their latest weapon against criminals by radioing in any suspicious or illegal activities they spot while out walking the streets.
An unpublished report by the Association of Chief Police Officers' patrol group concludes that there is "some scope" for greater use of wardens who would free beat constables.
The proposal is part of a larger study by ACPO's Patrol Project Working Group, which was accepted as forces' policy at a council meeting of chief constables yesterday.
According to the study, "traffic wardens provide some of the features of police patrol which are valued by the public."
The 76-page report, which confirms earlier articles in the Independent, also reveals that the police will now support the "hiring out" of extra officers to local authorities, hospital trusts and shopping malls.
If local authorities refuse to hire officers, the police will reluctantly help oversee the training and supervision of council-employed private security guards. However, they have ruled out working with lone private security firms.
Since September 1993, traffic wardens have gradually taken over a range of enforcement responsibilities from the police. They can order cars to be wheel-clamped and towed away when they are causing an obstruction, if they are parked dangerously or on double yellow lines or zig-zag lines near pedestrian crossings, for example.
They can even demand a driver's licence where an endorsable offence is involved, say, parking on pedestrian crossings, an offence leading to three penalty points.
The confidential report concludes: "The demand for police patrol exceeds the present capacity of the service to supply it ... Therefore, more radical options need to be considered."
Supt George Hannah, who helped draw up the report, said: "There's the possibility of them being extra eyes and ears for the police, especially as a lot have radios and could quickly report any incidents.
"These are things that need to be explored, but we want to ensure they don't become a two-tier police force by the back door."Reuse content