Bin men ‘should help tackle low level crime’

Housing officers, traffic wardens and even bin men should be brought in to help tackle neighbourhood crime, a new report recommends.

Research by the Audit Commission finds that although crime has been steadily falling for the past 11 years, most people believe it is on the increase because of the vandalism, litter and graffiti they see around them.

The watchdog argues that developing policies on a council-wide basis fails to identify these specific problems, and calls for better information to take into account the unique mix of transport links, people and amenities in individual neighbourhoods.

Everyone from refuse collectors, traffic wardens and shopkeepers, to housing officers, utility workers and postal workers could help in collecting information, it says – while they could also help in tackling the problem.

“People working for local agencies in frontline roles are often closest to the problems and can work jointly in a very pragmatic and effective way at local level,” the report says.

“Their knowledge can contribute to preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, reassuring residents who are fearful. Front line workers who meet local people on a regular basis, listen to their concerns and take effective local action reassure local people.”

However, public sector union Unison warned the Audit Commission had “lost the plot” to suggest rubbish collectors should be brought in to tackle crime.

“A visible protective presence on our streets and around our communities is the only thing that will help people feel more secure – not street cleaners and council repairmen expected to moonlight as reporters of low level crime,” said national head of local government Heather Wakefield.

“Apart from anything else, how far should these ‘eyes and ears’ go in reporting crime? And how long will it be before they are injured or even murdered while doing this?”

The Liberal Democrats said today’s report revealed that despite countless initiatives, the government had failed to make any major impact on anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood crime.

Home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg added: “The only way to bring about a long term reduction in crime and disorder is to build stronger communities. More police on the streets will help, but it is not the whole answer.”