'Business bobbies' set for Colchester

TWENTY 'Business Bobbies' could soon be added to an Essex town's police presence as part of the plans to create a Business Improvement District (BID) in Colchester.

By Roddy Ashworth

TWENTY 'Business Bobbies' could soon be added to an Essex town's police presence as part of the plans to create a Business Improvement District (BID) in Colchester.

The plan comes after the team evaluating the proposed BID held a series of seminars to hear the views of local firms.

The proposal for funding the additional police community support officers, who would be dedicated solely to businesses in the town, came about as a result of the meetings.

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Among their proposed duties would be to patrol the BID area and to help tackle crime that is affecting the prosperity of Colchester.

Two members of the team behind Essex's first town centre BID spent time with two local police officers to find out what town centre policing involved.

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Iain Wicks, chairman of the North East Essex Federation of Small Businesses and Ian Ferguson, chairman of the BID Evaluation Team, shadowed the officers for a day, and found that drug-related crime was the biggest issue facing retailers and offices in the town centre.

Mr Ferguson said: “The police in Colchester already do a fantastic job combating drug-related crime in the town, but there is not enough funding around to provide the support to businesses which are desperately needed.

“One of our jobs is to research how we can reduce crime to increase the number of people doing business in the area.

“One of the ideas that have been put forward is to provide funding and training for special 'Business Bobbies' to help alleviate drug-related crime which affects the business community.”

The Colchester BID would be an area of the town where businesses pay an additional levy to spend on the services they want.

Standard business rates are currently collected locally and fed directly back to central government, but funding from the Colchester BID would be ring-fenced for local businesses to spend on the town centre.

Mr Wicks and Mr Ferguson experienced a number of drug-related issues that affected town centre businesses including pick pocketing, shop lifting and aggressive people under the influence of alcohol.

Mr Wicks said: “It was interesting to see how police officers use the CCTV around the town to quickly respond to situations.

“There is a lot of police involvement with people with drug and alcohol related issues, particularly at night. This is one area that the Colchester BID could help combat.”

The 'walkabout' was part of a larger scheme undertaken by the team, which is developing a list of potential benefits the BID could bring to Colchester.

Other areas under consideration include the environment, access and parking, as well as promotion and marketing of the town centre.

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