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Private security industry can help lift pressure on police, says BSIA

As police up and down the UK struggle to cope with shrinking budgets, the country's best-in-class private security industry is well-placed to help lift pressure on forces while delivering an equally high quality of service to the public.

This is according to the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), which issued a statement yesterday (April 13th) in response to the Labour party's pre-election pledge to guarantee neighbourhood policing to every part of the UK.

It pointed out that police have been put under "unprecedented financial pressure" in recent years as a result of the reining-in of public spending under the coalition government - a trend set to continue in 2015 through 2016 as forces take a cut in central funding of five per cent, or £299 million, on 2014 to 2015.

The BSIA, however, believes that the problems can be alleviated through stronger partnerships between the police and contractors from within the UK's private security industry.

It proposed that the private sector could provide assistance to police in work such as managing cordons, carrying out area searches, managing custody suites and transporting offenders from one location to another.

Firms would be able to draw on their experience in providing contingency support to police during times of crisis and natural disaster, the trade body added, and their ability to fill support roles will play a vital part in getting officers back on the beat.

"Returning warranted officers to front-line duty is a core benefit of outsourcing back-office and support functions to private security personnel," said James Kelly, chief executive of the BSIA.

"Whichever political party or coalition comes to power in May will face the challenge of delivering high standards of policing against continued economic pressures," he continued. "As such, liaison with the private security industry will be the key to any reforms proposed by a new government."

Mr Kelly added that a reduction in the number of police officers would not necessarily contribute to an increase in the country's crime rates, arguing that "there is a sizeable and capable private security industry that already supports the UK police ... enabling better allocation of resources and more expenditure on vital frontline areas".

In support of its statement, the BSIA pointed to the findings of a recent study by Perpetuity Consultancy, entitled The Opportunities and Barriers to Partnership Working Between the Police and Private Sector.

The researchers claimed that an increase in collaboration with private security firms could save taxpayers as much as £1 billion per annum, further relieving downward pressure on police budgets in the years ahead.

In 2011, the UK government committed to a 20 per cent reduction in central funding for police forces over the subsequent four years, compelling many to seek alternative delivery models, such as outsourcing to the private sector, for the first time.

In July last year, the BSIA reported on a trial partnership in which the use of security guards saved one force a total of 350 hours in frontline police time over an eight-week pilot period.


Posted by Andrew Miller

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