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The Laz word......from Larry Neild

This week: May the force be with you: Do we need private security patrols in the city centre? No, says our Monday columnist

Published on April 7th 2008.

The Laz word......from Larry Neild

MODERN day Wyatt Earps will be hired to keep bad dudes out of Liverpool city centre if the business community gets its way.

Not content with having sworn-in deputy sheriffs guarding the doors to the local saloons, Wyatt and his posse will be moseying along Church Street and Lord Street waiting to holler out the message… “get outta my town.”

Seems those business folk are feeling grouchy because hired hands are being taken on to patrol the streets of Grosvenor’s Liverpool One development, due to open at the end of May. Word is that the rest of the city centre will need its own “zero tolerance” security force to mop up anyone chucked out of there. I’m troubled by the call from Downtown Liverpool in Business. It’s all very well to say a poll they conducted came out conclusively with the demand for a private security force. But I always though we already had a system in place, known locally as the local constabulary.

It will be more thin-end-of wedge than thin-blue-line if DLIB has its way. Yes, I can understand the need to keep the streets clear of troublemakers and nuisances. Surely the answer is for businesses to pay Chief Sheriff Bernard Hogan-Howe to do the job with more hired officers and deputies – or rather community support people.

Liverpool One will, for quite a while, become a city within a city. I even half expect to see the world’s biggest doormat in Whitechapel, to ensure visitors brush their shoes as they cross the border between the old and the new.

Is the answer a group of street “bouncers” joining the masses of door bouncers around the city centre?

The Trafford Centre has its own squad of security guys, and what a sterile environment it is. You almost crave a bit of a fight to break the Stepford-type monotomy.

There are already privately funded patrols in South Liverpool, doing the same job that their US cousins are carrying out, in the likes of Hollywood.

The city centre belongs to the people, a place where tramps and millionaires can, well, at a safe distance, rub shoulders. It’s our focal point, our very soul, not the exclusive domain of traders and businesspeople only wanting entry on their terms.

Next they’ll want to rebuild the city walls so they can have passport-style entry into the heart of the city. So I’m being paranoid? Over reacting? Stupid even? Maybe so, but then I recall an a incident in Runcorn New Town some years ago. Like a new Jerusalem, Runcorn attracted thousands of Scousers to Cheshire. They built a concrete citadel, known as Shopping City, a Lego-style structure that would not have looked out of place on Mars.

To give it the homely sense, it had a town square, a market place and shopping streets - all enclosed in a giant, windowless bunker.

A dispute flared at one of the shops, leading to staff staging a walkout to support a sacked colleague. They formed an orderly and peaceful picket line outside their shop, the kind of demonstration that would have had the police keeping a discreet watchful eye, not intervening unless there was evidence of a breach of the peace.

But Shopping City’s security people were having none of it. They banished the pickets to a remote spot at the very perimeter of land outside their mini private fiefdom.

It has already been decided that the streets of Liverpool One will be privately patrolled by security personnel, and time will tell whether that arrangement is popular or unpopular. I guess people will be relaxed about it, that is until a Runcorn-type incident occurs.

DLIB chairman Frank McKenna has been widely promoting the survey, demanding the introduction of a private force. The original constabulary officers were called Bobbies, after their founder Sir Robert Peel. I wonder whether Liverpool’s patrol, as a thank you to Mr McKenna, will become known as Frankintown’s Men.

Larry Neild presents The Politics Show, on CityTalk 105.9, every Sunday at noon.

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

achillesApril 6th 2008.

Frank McKenna as a champion of law&order?You couldn't makeit up!

Dingle BelleApril 6th 2008.

Who is this Frank McKenna? Why is he newsworthy? Why should anyone listen to his ravings?

Rev. Archibald ClenchApril 6th 2008.

I wrote the following letter to the Daily Post in response to their pleas for readers to submit their opinions. I did - and that was that. So I reproduce it here: Dear Sir, The bizarre idea that minority fringe pressure group D.L.I.B. has come up with to establish a private 'security' force of hired strong-arm men to push around those law-abiding citizens (to whose appearance they take exception) on a public right of way in our city centre is completely unacceptable! Merseyside Police acts in the public good by upholding the law as it applies to everyone, whereas Frank McKenna's private police force would only be looking after the property and interests of its paymasters. Also, might it not turn out like Mike Storey's rather useless secret police; i.e., always there to victimise a quiet, lone smoker, but nowhere to be seen when the city centre is filled with hordes of drunkenly bellowing yobs in football shirts, openly drinking and urinating en masse in Bold Street in broad daylight in front of the terrified shoppers and their children? Private police? NO THANKS! We're British!

AnonymousApril 6th 2008.

When did Church Street, Bold Street and Lord Street become private? I'm fed up of places I thought were public spaces becoming privately enforced. In order to take a photo in Birkenhead town centre you have to ask permission from the Grange precinct's owners - what a joke. If the city's streets are public places they should be policed by our Merseyside police force who have, we hope, everyones safety and security at heart, not just that of the businesses.

WappingApril 6th 2008.

Since Liverpool's Fourth Grace, the Juke of Westminster, took over the back streets we've lost the concept of streets as being inalienably for the people. The immediate worry isn't especially the principle of public space but about the qualifications and suitability and leadership of the bouncers. When I've heard people complaining about Merseyside Police I've answered with the example "without them we'd have villains setting up road blocks on the main roads". I didn't think of it in this particular context though ...

John Lennon AirportApril 6th 2008.

So I see the Guardian have finally picked up on Larry's excellent column here and done a practically identical piece this week. I think we should be told the truth here about exactly who owns this masssive slice of Liverpool. The people or Gerry the duke???

WirralApril 6th 2008.

Frank McKenna has done nothing for Liverpool he is a joke, totally unrepresentative of the people or the majority of the business community. All he is interested in is his EGO and trying to be the next Lord Maor of Liverpool what a clown

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