21 November 2016
Exeter’s ‘privatised’ patrols raises questions about city’s approach and agenda
Reading the press release regarding the private security wardens in Exeter St David’s area, you can’t help but wonderwhether this is yet another attack on the homeless in a city that is getting a bit of a reputation.
The wardens, as the press release says, are being funded by a County Councillor, and are as a response to fears from the community which alleges that there’s been a cut in PCSOs.
These new private security guards have no powers other than those that any citizen has. But instead they will patrol the streets in their livery – as what? Moving on machines?
And if you disagree with them, what then?
It all sounds rather worrying.
The press release says that the private wardens are in place because people don’t like reporting crimes to the police, so they should report crimes to the wardens – who can do nothing about said crimes but report them to the police. Oh, and those reporting the crimes to the wardens should also report them to the police.
Doesn’t sound that thought-through.
The private security wardens project is in conjunction with a health charity, but no health outcomes are mentioned – just the number of hostels and the implied failure of the police.
Also, helpfully, the cost of the initiative is omitted from the press release.
But let’s shimmy over to Fritton in Essex, where the Police and Crime Commissioner there, Nick Alston, voiced his concerns over what could be the advent of a ‘two-tier police system, as seen in countries like South Africa’.
He says: “For example an extra 50p per week would fund an extra 300 officers in Essex working on behalf of the whole community, and not just those who can afford, and are prepared to pay considerably for private security.”
So, rather than a service that could benefit the community at large, we have one that has a narrower focus. What could the funding – if we knew what it was – be otherwise spent on, which could have a longer-lasting and deeper impact?
We don’t know what the incredibly political [as in Tory\ Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner [who is being investigated for her part in Torbay’s electoral expenses] Alison Hernandez has to say.
Interestingly, other communities in Devon have responded to issues regarding health and ASB in a very different manner. Townstal in Dartmouth now has a thriving “Community Partnership” (TCP!) following C2 Connecting Communities principles. This approach is collaborative and long lasting – not based upon pockets of public funding seemingly focused upon someone’s restricted agenda.
Policing in Britain is predicated upon the consent of the public, which affords it a legitimacy to uphold laws “without fear or favour”.
This example of the use of public funds to champion woolly aims and unclear outcomes is a step towards “privatising” patrolling functions. This should cause all of us to ask louder and louder questions as to what agenda (and set by whom?) is being followed here – it is certainly not the general public’s.