PRSD | Exeter’s ‘privatised’ patrols raises questions about city’s approach and agenda

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21 November 2016

Exeter’s ‘privatised’ patrols raises questions about city’s approach and agenda

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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.

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SDNP | New Community Warden service for St David’s

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03 November 2016

New Community Warden service for St David’s

A pilot Community Warden service started in St David’s Neighbourhood on Tuesday 1 November.   The service is being introduced to an area with a high density and very diverse population which is also the location for five separate hostels for vulnerable people.

The introduction of a Community Warden follows discussions over a number of years with councillors, supported housing agencies, local residents and police in relation to the impact of anti-social behaviour across the Neighbourhood.

St David’s Neighbourhood Partnership has been awarded grants from their Devon County Councillor, Jill Owen, the Exeter Board, and The People’s Health Trust. A steering group has been set up representing many of the local partners to work with the warden service provider, to identify key problem hot-spots, gather data on antisocial behaviour levels, be a point of contact for local residents, and provide a visible and reassuring presence across the area.

The Community Warden service will be supporting the local police, Exeter city council teams and voluntary agencies and will be able to report crime and anti-social behaviour directly to them.   He will interact with established security services provided by Exeter College security, the University of Exeter Estate Patrol, and the Exeter Businesses Against Crime group (EBAC).

Asked why this service is needed, a local resident and Steering Group Member said that over recent years residents had become increasingly alarmed at the blatant drug-dealing in the area, as well as antisocial behaviour – including criminal damage.

Christine Fraser, Chair of St David’s Neighbourhood Partnership, explained that the introduction of the community warden service was a direct response to the Vision 2020 consultation process by the community to identify key issues and priority actions over the next 5 years to achieve the Association’s objective of making this inner-city area a place where people want to live and work, now and in the future.

Initially for a 9 month period, there will be a full evaluation report and recommendations to the police, Community Safety Partnership, Exeter City Council and St David’s community.

Christine Fraser added, ‘This is not a unique solution for inner-city communities and we know of several similar schemes in other towns and cities. However, it is a first for Exeter and we are all committed to ensuring that we achieve the very best outcome possible for everyone living and working in the area as well as supporting the work of our statutory agencies through a sensitive and collaborative approach.’

The warden service providers are confident in delivering this service, not least because their offices are based in the Neighbourhood and they have first-hand knowledge of many of the issues. There is a recognition that crime and disorder is not always being reported. Residents worried about contacting the police can now report incidents to the community warden who will make it part of his shift report. It should be noted that the warden service providers are not the police and people should continue to report crime and antisocial behaviour to the police in the usual way.

Devon County Councillor Jill Owen said, ‘There has been a huge reduction in police numbers in our city against increased demands for police services and even the much admired PCSOs are thinner on the ground. We would not have agreed to fund it if we were not aware of the problems St David’s is experiencing due to its proximity to the city centre. This is very much a pilot scheme so we will watch its progress carefully.’

Supt Sam De Reya, Police Commander for Exeter said ‘D&C Police are committed to protecting the vulnerable and reducing crime. We fully support this pilot and encourage community involvement to increase reporting, demonstrate visibility and engagement with our communities. The local Sgt and Police Community Management Officer are members of the steering committee and fully engaged with the progress of this pilot’

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Note to Editor

St David’s Neighbourhood Vision 2020 document, ‘Building our Balanced Community’, can be found at: http://www.stdavidsneighbourhood.org.uk

For further information contact Christine Fraser on 07773038689; or
Karen Gold, Police Community Management Officer (PCMO) Exeter 01392 451613