Are private security firms ’doing the job of the police?’

With the UK high street under pressure, councils and local partnership initiatives are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to support the businesses on their patch.

One common issue faced by town and city centre locations is antisocial behaviour, which includes alcohol consumption, excessive noise and intimidating behaviour. For retailers, it can be a serious problem, having a potentially negative impact on footfall, sales and the reputation of the area. Not to mention being unpleasant for residents.

With funding cuts putting a strain on local police resources, one option for tackling such behaviour - which several towns and cities have already explored - is enlisting the support of the private security sector.

At Venture, we have been providing town and city centre patrols for many years now, so it’s a subject we know a lot about. Our city centre security officers currently carry out daily patrols in Fareham, Salisbury, Winchester and Basingstoke and we know the results are being watched closely by other cities in the region. Similar schemes are also taking place in other areas around the UK.

One of the questions we are frequently asked when we talk about our patrols is: ‘But aren’t you doing the job of the police?’ and our answer is a resounding ‘No!’.

The role, powers and impact of our City Centre Security Offices (CCSOs) is very different and is designed to work alongside other partners, including the police, in improving the overall high street experience.

Here we take a closer look at what the duties of a CCSO are, how city centre patrols work and how such officers are helping to make city centres a friendlier and safer place.

 

What is a City Centre Security Officer (CCSO)?

A City Centre Security Officer is a fully trained and SIA licenced security professional, who carries out patrols of a city centre location on foot.

Their primary responsibility is to patrol a predefined area and minimise antisocial behaviour. This may include covering key retail zones and back streets, as well as town squares and marketplaces.

Officers will usually conduct their patrols in pairs and be trained in areas including conflict management, first aid and mental health first aid and crime scene management. As part of their patrols, officers will record and report back details of any incidents they encounter to the council and/or key stakeholders as required.

 

How do city centre patrols work?

The security officers wear a uniform, so they look smart and professional and are clearly identifiable as being in enforcement, while not appearing as police officers. Each day they will patrol the area, varying their route and timings.

They will carry and display their SIA licence with them at all times and here at Venture Security, will also be provided with body worn cameras and a DNA tagging spray, which can help in linking individuals to crimes and so aids the police in obtaining convictions.

The officers also help build stronger community links and lines of communication, often becoming a familiar and recognisable face in the local area. They will routinely pop into shops and pubs to speak with staff and may also participate in existing Pub Watch, Shop Watch and Business Watch schemes.

 

What is their purpose?

The core responsibility of a CCSO is dealing directly with antisocial behaviour, gathering evidence and escalating and reporting anything relevant to the appropriate authorities. Another important role they play is helping those who need it by signposting local support services.

If they spot an issue, they can help diffuse tension and reduce the risk of threat or injury being caused, by helping resolve an incident before it has chance to escalate. For example, here’s how two of our officers on patrol in Salisbury helped an individual in distress receive the help he needed.

CCSOs typically form part of a broader partnership approach. One of the most important roles the officers will play is sitting at the heart of that partnership, liaising between and reporting back to all stakeholders, such as the council, police and local business community.

Our CCSOs have been described by one police officer as: “They are my eyes and ears on the street and provide valuable intelligence which has assisted me in gathering evidence to deal with those individuals who continue to engage in anti-social behaviour.  These are just a few of the areas in which they assist me, and I find myself very fortunate to be able to call on their help and assistance.”

 

What powers do City Centre Security Officers have?

CCSOs are not police officers and do not have the same powers. They are there to act as a deterrent, helping combat antisocial behaviour while supporting the growth of partnership working.

If they observe a crime taking place they do not have powers to arrest but can contact the police and formally report the offence. They can also act as witnesses in court, giving testimony on the stand for any events they observe.

At Venture Security, we were one of the first security providers to be granted powers under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS) - something we’ve now achieved in both Hampshire and Wiltshire.

This means our accredited officers have additional, low-level police powers, including:

  • Power to require giving of name and address
  • Power to require name and address for anti-social behaviour
  • Power to require persons aged under 18 to surrender alcohol
  • Power to seize tobacco from a person aged under 16
  • Power to deal with begging

 

In summary

What we have seen in the areas our CCSOs patrol is that they can make a genuine and tangible difference - and often very quickly. The role they fulfil is one that supports and is complimentary to the police service, but will never replace it, with distinct differences in the responsibilities, powers and objectives of each.

To find out more, download our Salisbury City Patrol Case Study here or call us on 01264 391538.