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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 12:55 GMT
Traffic wardens to be 'eyes and ears'
Traffic wardens will used for intelligence gathering
The Metropolitan Police are to transfer hundreds of officers from traffic duties to fighting street crime.

Traffic wardens are going to be used to free up police officers as well as taking on an extended 'eyes and ears' role in the city centre.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens has outlined plans to deal with the rising problem of street crime.

They include the redeployment of 475 officers to tackle street crime on the boroughs whilst security patrols in central London and strategic sites are maintained.

We are saying let's expand their duties, use them in terms of intelligence and in terms of eyes and ears and I think they are up for that

Sir John Stevens

It will include the redeployment of more than 315 traffic officers, more than half the total number in the force.

In addition 160 traffic wardens will be switched to high visibility and security patrols.

The new measures will be introduced in the next two weeks and will be reviewed at the end of March.

Sir John told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are going to use traffic wardens in the centre of London to free up police officers to go to the boroughs where we have taken them from to ensure that police officers are doing the job they are fully trained for - which is fighting crime.

"We use traffic wardens for a range of duties. What we are saying is they can do other duties related to `eyes and ears' in the centre of London, walking the streets in terms of making sure suspicious vehicles are noted, in terms of general security duties.

Sir John Stevens
Sir John Stevens: "Hard choices have been made"

"We are saying let's expand their duties, use them in terms of intelligence and in terms of eyes and ears and I think they are up for that."

The Commissioner admits that hard choices have had to be made in relation to the redeployment of traffic officers and wardens.

He said while motorway patrols and fatal accident investigations will not be affected, traffic enforcement for speeding, red routes, bus lanes, vehicle excise and abnormal load escorts face reduction.

This could lead to increased traffic congestion.

Police have also identified 320 known street criminals who will be put under surveillance and arrested for any crime, street-related or otherwise.

Eight boroughs in particular will be designated for street robbery operations involving specialist units similar to the Met's recent Operation Strongbox.

Government action

These are Westminster, Lambeth, Hackney, Southwark, Camden, Tower Hamlets, Haringey and Brent.

The Commissioner also warned that the Met alone will not be able to make a significant impact on street robbery without commitment and action from other agencies.

"To put it bluntly, there will not be much gained if the Met continues to arrest more street robbers who are then simply processed and freed to rob again - so-called 'revolving door justice,' said Sir John.

To counter this, the Met wants the Government to consider sentencing for robbery emulating the successful "three strikes and you're out" policy for burglary.

It is also seeking tighter bail restrictions for street robbers.

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See also:

05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
'Radical' police reform unveiled
05 Dec 01 | England
Wardens welcome patrol reform
05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett's bold plans for police reform
02 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Plan to reform 'failing' police
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