PRIVATE security guards have been granted police powers to help tackle antisocial behaviour in Boscombe – and they could be used elsewhere.

The three Community Safety Patrol Officers (CSPOs) are employed by Guarding UK Ltd – which already deploys security staff in the Sovereign Shopping Centre – but, in a first for the county, possess the same enforcement powers as a Dorset Police Community Support Officer.

Their powers were granted by Chief Constable Debbie Simpson as part of the government’s Community Safety Accreditation Scheme and include issuing penalty notices, demanding identification details and moving people on.

Their employment was defended by the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, at a launch event yesterday, with them described as “an extra pair of eyes and ears”, “an extra tool in the toolbox”.

They stressed that the CSPOs were not replacing police officers or PCSOs.

Chief Constable Simpson told the Daily Echo that police could not be on hand all of the time, but the CSPOs were assigned to Boscombe precinct.

“It’s the first of its kind, but it doesn’t need to be limited to Boscombe. Boscombe has had the foresight to try something different.”

Mr Underhill added: “Already in six weeks the CSPOs have proved their worth, dealing with nearly 300 incidents.

“To me this is a springboard; we need these roles elsewhere in Dorset, helping in partnership to keep people safe.

“Police officers and PCSOs are operational and can be pulled away. If there was a murder in Southbourne, God forbid, Boscombe would be left without any cover, but that will not happen with CSPOs, who are assigned to this area.”

The scheme is intended to deal with low-level offences like street begging, drunks and drug users and to stop people cycling on the pavement, in the precinct, Royal Arcade and Sovereign shopping centres.

Boscombe Partnership and Regeneration Officer, Police Sergeant Chris Amey said: “They are not here to replace police officers or Police Community Support Officers, but instead work closely with the East Bournemouth Safer Neighbourhood Team, local retailers and residents to improve community safety and provide reassurance.”

The three CSPOs, Lorne Castle, Jerry Smerdon and Dave Parr- Helyar, are accredited by the Security Industry Authority.

They have been financed for their first year from Bournemouth Council’s Recession Fund, with £60,000 for recruitment, training, one year’s salary and uniforms, while the £14,000 for their handsets was provided by the Bournemouth Coastal Business Improvement District.

Cllr Jane Kelly, council cabinet member for partnerships and regeneration, said: “The council was keen to help get this scheme off the ground and that is why we provided enough funding to get it up and running for the first year.”

Shop owners have their say

Sarah Smith, co-owner of Rose Red Records in the Royal Arcade, said: “We don’t get as many incidents as in the Sovereign Centre, but we have had a few shoplifters and I sometimes feel a bit intimidated leaving the shop.

“We never used to see a police officer in here, but now we do see the wardens all the time, which makes us feel safer.”

Sara Diffey, owner of Zara Fabrics in the Royal Arcade, said: “It has made a difference having these community wardens around.

“It is nice to not have the drunks and people on drugs wandering in, which was putting off customers. I think the police box has made a difference as well.”

The Garden Café in the Sovereign Centre was hit by a burglar who raided several stores over one night in June.

Manager Debbie Clark said: “We don’t get too many problems with the drunks now as our security are on to them.”

Sovereign Centre manager Peter Ruscoe said: “We review security at the centre all the time and have implemented some changes since the incidents last month.

“We will be putting in additional CCTV cameras and alarms.

“We are very happy with the service Guarding UK are providing at the moment. Where we have had issues with antisocial behaviour they have been able to sort the problem out.

“The feedback has been very positive.”