Driving instructors are being recruited to help fight crime in the latest example of policing on the cheap.
Essex Police are asking people giving driving lessons to act as their eyes and ears in areas of high crime and contact them if they spot anyone acting suspiciously.
Those who sign up will be given crime maps so they know the worst areas and even descriptions of suspects to keep an eye out for.
Police also hope they will be able to make use of dashboard mounted cameras that many driving instructors now use, in order to film criminals in the act.
Dubbed Neighbourhood Watch on Wheels, the he scheme is being trialled in the Tendring district of Essex around Clacton-on-Sea, where police cuts have drastically reduced the numbers of bobbies on the beat.
The reduction in frontline policing comes at a time when burglaries in the area have soared, with drug addicts targeting properties to feed their habits.
Last year locals in nearby Frinton-on-Sea agreed to pay £100 each to fund a private security firm to patrol their streets.
District commander, Russ Cole, who is behind the driving instructor scheme, said he hoped it would help deter criminals and reassure the public.
He said: “Driving instructors seemed like an obvious choice - here is a group of professionals who are willing to help.
“Whilst they are doing their three-point turns and manoeuvres, they'll be keeping an eye out for suspects.
“We will be working with as many of the instructors as possible, sharing information with them, such as maps of where burglaries are taking place and descriptions of suspects.
“They are professional people and we trust them to teach young people to drive and they have dash cams which could prove invaluable.
“We are asking them to be our eyes and ears and to give us a call if they have any information.”
But critics expressed concern that the system was ushering in policing on the cheap and asking driving instructors to do a job they were not trained to do.
Carly Brookfield the CEO of the Driving Instructors Association said: “While we would welcome the opportunity to work with the police to reduce crime this should be in the area of road safety, which is more aligned to the professional skillset and knowledge of a driver trainer, rather than spotting burglaries and assaults.
“Also, as distraction is one of the biggest causes of risk and accident while driving, I would be very concerned about instructors becoming distracted looking for crimes occurring off the road, while they are trying to teach motorists to concentrate on the roads.”
Local driving instructor Kevin Carroll, 57, who runs the Benson school, said: “We’d more interested in reporting bad driving than burglaries. I’m not looking what’s going on around me when I’m teaching students how to drive. I look at the road.”
Steve Taylor from the Essex Police Federation said: “This idea is about making the most of the resources we have. It is looking for more creative ideas to have partners in the community and this won’t be the only resources in that area.”
Reference: Telegraph News