Ipswich Central insist street rangers are not a police force after uniform fitted with stab vests and cameras

The Ipswich Central street rangers' new uniform

The Ipswich Central street rangers' new uniform - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Central has defended its new street ranger uniform which features stab vests and body cameras, after claims its rangers were replacing bobbies on the beat.

Yesterday, the rangers hit the town centre wearing the new uniform, which includes a stab vest worn on the outside of their red branded tops, with fitted cameras and tracking devices.

The new gadgets prompted fears that the street rangers would be getting involved in tackling crime, but Ipswich Central bosses have dismissed claims they were doing the job of police officers.

Helen Dodman from Ipswich Central said: “Street rangers are always rangers and police will always be police.

“They [the rangers] will get involved in some things and not others.

“They work alongside the police and they are on first name terms – they are just an extra valuable asset.”

The new outfits come following a trial period in September and October last year, and national research that body cameras tend to diffuse situations, according to Ipswich Central.

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Christopher Hudson, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for Ipswich, described the need for stab vests as “regrettable” but admitted it was needed to tackle the types of crime faced in the town centre today.

“On one level it’s regrettable, but on the other hand it’s welcome to the year of Robocop. If it saves lives and cuts out crime that is good, and we have got to face the reality of the type of crime today.”

Despite insisting the rangers are not a police force, chief executive Paul Clement admitted the nature of their role meant they had been called to an increasing number of shoplifting incidents because they are more likely to be in the immediate area.

Mr Clement said: “The street rangers, provided by local businesses through the BID, hold a pivotal role in the town centre and their presence is something businesses see as an important element of being part of a Business Improvement District.

“Because of this, the safety of the team is of paramount important to us.

“As their role has developed over the years, they are relied upon more and more to attend incidents such as shop lifting.

“The cameras will be used to record the incidents they attend and this footage may well be called upon should a case go to court.

“It’s not just about recording incidents though. Research has shown that the use of body warn cameras can often have a calming effect on an incident, helping to defuse a situation which could have escalated.

“It is for this reason that we will be introducing these as a standard part of their uniform.”

The rangers had previously worn stab vests before the uniform changes, but were considered less visible beneath their jackets.

Members of the public who approach one of the five rangers will be made aware if they are filming, but bosses have said it is more about diffusing incidents rather than recording them, adding that the revisions were approved by the firms in the BID following a trial period last September and October.

Their role was backed by Suffolk police, which works alongside the street rangers to monitor safety in the town centre.

Sergeant Jon Driver added: “We work closely with the Ipswich Street Rangers and value the contribution they make to reducing crime in the town centre. They are often our eyes and ears on the ground and their presence helps to discourage and disrupt criminal activity, making Ipswich a safer place to visit, work, shop and enjoy.”

What are your thoughts on the new look? Email newsroom@archant.co.uk to share your views.

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