Private guards plan to tackle vandals

PRIVATE security companies could increasingly be drafted in to towns and villages in Suffolk to help police combat the likes of anti-social behaviour and criminal damage.

By Richard Smith

PRIVATE security companies could increasingly be drafted in to towns and villages in Suffolk to help police combat the likes of anti-social behaviour and criminal damage.

The idea has been mooted in the market town of Woodbridge, where there is a growing concern over such problems.

But a business chief has predicted other areas may increasingly look at hiring guards to keep the cost of crime down.

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A former Woodbridge mayor has revealed some people in the town are so fed-up they are looking at the possibility of employing security guards there on Friday and Saturday nights.

Mac Miles, whose car was recently burnt out in an arson attack outside his Queen's Head Lane home, spoke of the news during a debate on policing issues at a town council meeting.

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He told Inspector Ben Cook, Woodbridge sector commander: ''The perception of what Woodbridge wants and what Woodbridge sees is happening are totally different. What happened to me brought home the damage that can be done on Friday and Saturday nights.

''People are seriously talking about getting a security firm and hiring them on Friday and Saturday nights to look after their property.''

But Insp Cook said new initiatives to tackle anti-social behaviour were starting to reap dividends.

Insp Cook said plain-clothes officers had been used for late-night patrols recently - a move which resulted in a number of arrests.

He said there had been a large increase in the amount of criminal damage recently, but officers were arresting more people than ever before.

Commenting on the private security guard idea, he added: ''Ipswich has got several people that are part funded by the police that do not get taken away to other operations and they are proving to be quite successful.

"I think it would be an addition if we had something like that but I am not going down the vigilante route.''

He also warned that young people had become disillusioned with a perceived lack of action by adults to help them and the teenagers had an attitude, ''they do not care about us - sod it, let's smash the place up,'' said Insp Cook.

Malcolm Knapp, project leader at the Just 42 youth organisation, said before the town council meeting there was a lack of understanding for young people's issues in the town.

''The biggest problem we have in this area is with communication. Everything is looked at with an adult's perception. If the adults want to start talking to the young people about vandalism, they've got to start talking on young people's terms. A lot of the vandalism is the only way young people know how to get their message across,'' said Mr Knapp.

Last night, Bob Feltwell, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said crime was costing firms an average of £8,000 per year and added he would not be surprised if more businesses across Suffolk decided to employ security firms to patrol their premises.

"It's regrettable that it is necessary because it's a waste of money and that money will have to be received in the price of shop goods and services. It's a cost to the community," he said.

"It's already the case in industrial estates where they get together and employ their own security people such as Ransomes Europark.

"On certain industrial sites where disruptive behaviour is happening they have already set up their own partnership and employed contractors to keep a look out overnight. It would not surprise us at all."

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