Essex security firm bids to patrol residential areas

An Essex-based private security firm is aiming to be among the first in the UK to operate residential patrols with powers to deal with low-level crime.

BBC Inside Out East has discovered that Garde UK wants to start a 24-hour a day service covering Brentwood, with residents each paying £1 a week.

The company has been accredited by Essex Police, which means it could be granted powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, issue fixed penalty notices and confiscate alcohol.

Under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS), people can apply for accreditation to exercise limited legal powers.

Nearly 400 people from 25 organisations, including park wardens and bus inspectors, have been vetted and trained by Essex Police, but the force is yet to grant any powers to Garde UK.

'Strain on resources'

Tom Peppiatt, from Garde UK, said the firm wanted to work alongside the police to deter crime and improve community spirit.

He said: "We are not a private policing company - we are a private security company that is providing additional information and intelligence back to the police to help the system in their day-to-day routine."

The plan has been criticised by the Essex Police Federation.

Chairman Tony Rayner said: "We think policing powers should stay firmly with the police.

"If people can afford to pay £5 a week £250 a year whatever it is, then why can't they afford to pay that in additional precept to the police authority for more police officers to do it?"

But a report by Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International, which specialises in research into crime reduction and security, said while some senior police officers saw working with private security as a threat, others had embraced the idea.

Professor Martin Gill, director of Perpetuity Group, said: "I think to dismiss it too quickly is dangerous in itself, especially as we move into a new era where there are cutbacks.

"There is going to be a greater strain on police officers and they are going to have to look to different ways of policing."

"There are going to be some brave police forces that go out there and set out a different way of doing things where they find better ways of embracing resources in the community, including private security."

The full report can be seen on BBC Inside Out East and London on Monday 7 March at 1930 GMT on BBC1.

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