The provision of local policing no longer resides solely with the police but has become increasingly fragmented and multi-tiered. Those involved in policing activities now include sworn police officers, special constables, community support officers, neighbourhood wardens, private security guards and active citizens. Adam Crawford and Stuart Lister of the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, University of Leeds, conducted a study of initiatives that seek to provide public reassurance through visible patrols in residential areas. Focused primarily upon Yorkshire and Humberside, the study found that:
- Over half the housing agencies surveyed said that they had become a lot more concerned with crime and disorder issues in recent years. Threequarters agreed that the police need to co-ordinate better and accredit the work of other providers of security and patrols.
- Two-thirds of police divisional commanders and finance directors in the region said that generating income through the provision of additional policing was important.
- In a national survey, manned private security companies identified ‘residential areas’ as the area of greatest potential growth across the sector over the next five years.
- However, the division of labour within this mixed economy of policing is neither well-organised nor effectively co-ordinated. Developments have largely been ad hoc and driven by local markets. Relations between different providers vary considerably, ranging from effective co-production and coordination to indifference, competition and hostility.
- The boundaries between the diverse providers, their respective responsibilities, roles and limitations are often unclear. This can leave the public uncertain about what can legitimately be expected of them.
- The initiatives studied all highlighted the importance of engaging with local residents, exploiting their knowledge about local crime and disorder problems and providing them with a stake in their own community policing efforts.
- The researchers conclude that, given the uneven co-ordination, weak accountability and segmented regulation of policing, oversight arrangements are needed that incorporate all security providers at both local and regional levels, to ensure fair competition, appropriate standards and safeguard the public interest as well as more effective joint working.