John Scheerhout, June 14, 2012
A team of up to 100 security guards – branded a ‘private police force’ by angry cops – will be patrolling Manchester streets within a month.
Uniformed officers working in pairs will be on the streets carrying out ‘re-assurance visits’ to shops who have signed up to the city-centre scheme.
They will wear stab-vests and utility belts including a radio as well as a ‘body camera’ to gather evidence of any crime or disorder.
At first, just a dozen officers – mostly former police staff – will take part in the scheme, the first of its kind in the country.
Although they will not have police powers of arrest, talks are under way to eventually give the officers limited powers to hand out on-the-spot fines for minor offences such as littering.
Businesses who sign up to the scheme with security giant Securitas are promised up to eight visits a day and panic alarms with a 90-second response.
If the scheme proves popular, Securitas hopes to recruit up to 100 officers.
But rank-and file cops have criticised the scheme as a ‘quasi-police force’ and slammed the ‘creeping privatisation’ of the service – and town hall bosses are pushing for urgent talks with the company.
Securitas bosses say their officers will not strictly be ‘on patrol’ but ‘highly visible’ and ‘will not replace traditional policing, but complement it’. The company has lined up a number of major retailers keen on its new ‘retail support unit’ and is also believed to be in advanced talks with senior figures at Greater Manchester Police about the project.
Paul King, Securitas area director for Greater Manchester, told the M.E.N: “We are very excited about this innovative new project, which I must stress will not replace traditional policing but rather complement it.
“Our officers will be highly professional and provide a re-assuring presence on the streets of Manchester. They won’t be there to arrest people or anything like that. They will be providing a service for the retailers and be a reassuring presence on the streets of the city.”
Hobbies, Off Duty, Holidays anything like that!