John Harris

Journalist & Author

The growth of private policing is eroding justice for all | John Harris

Security firms stepping in for overstretched officers is another signifier of how austerity Britain is becoming more unequal

Martock is a 4,700-population village on the edge of the Somerset Levels. Superficially, it does not look like somewhere positioned on the cutting edge of social policy, with faint echoes of the future as imagined by JG Ballard and Philip K Dick. But viewed from a certain angle, a scheme that has been running since April might suggest something close.

Four nights a week between 10pm and 1am, some of Martock’s streets are visited at least twice by two employees of a company called Atlas UK Security Services, who drive a branded car, have body-mounted digital cameras, and are charged with keeping an eye on low-level local crime. They were brought in by the parish council when problems with noise, criminal damage and antisocial behaviour around a shopping parade began to reach a critical point: according to local councillor Neil Bloomfield, who took the lead in drafting in new help, Avon and Somerset police told locals they “couldn’t give us the level of patrolling we thought we needed to deal with it”.

The point is inevitable: would that such dedicated service were available to less affluent neighbourhoods

Related: The industry of inequality: why the world is obsessed with private security

Related: A private force isn’t the answer to the policing crisis | Calum Macleod

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