Staffordshire's PCC Matthew Ellis: 'I want our police to be more visible'
DOZENS of unmarked police cars which are not needed for undercover operations could be decked out with blue lights and signs to make officers more visible to the public.
Staffordshire's new police and crime commissioner (PCC) Matthew Ellis is considering the policy as part of a five-point strategy to reduce people's fear of crime.
The move would see police markings added to some cars to help reassure communities.
Mr Ellis, pictured below, is also reviewing whether A19 sanctions, which force officers to retire after 30 years, can be withdrawn and new officers can be recruited for the first time since 2010.
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It comes as the number of warranted officers in Staffordshire is at a record low; set to fall to 1,750 from a 2006 peak of 2,347 amid £34 million budget cuts.
The police authority, which the PCC post has replaced, and Chief Constable Mike Cunningham had both previously indicated that recruitment would have to be frozen until 2015 without a tax rise to mitigate the cuts.
But Mr Ellis has pledged the 13 per cent portion of council tax levied by the police force will not increase in 2013/14.
He said: "Marking the cars is one small and simple idea, but it has already been supported by senior police officers as being a sensible approach. There are simple solutions to some of the problems we have.
"If we mark more vehicles, we could instantly improve the visibility of police on the streets. I want more visible policing and for us to be more responsive.
"I'm now awaiting a report on some of the logistics."
Since taking office on Thursday, Mr Ellis has also begun exploring plans to recruit 200 new special constables to help police their own communities, and unlocking millions of pounds tied up by the force's failure to sell its former HQ in Stafford.
Mr Ellis said: "I am looking very closely at A19 and also at recruitment.
"I want to make absolutely certain that we work hard to reassure the public by making sure they see the police presence and more officers.
"We have to shift the emphasis to stopping crime, rather than clearing up after it, and I think we can go much further to put steps in place to achieve that."
Margaret McDonald, aged 69, from Tunstall, said: "I would rather they actually had more police officers as we hardly see them anymore."
Luke Allen, aged 23, from Stafford, added: "It seems very sensible, as long as they don't end up without any unmarked cars for when they are actually needed.
"Crime is supposedly going down, but nobody really feels any safer. If you see police more often you do feel safer, and it will also hopefully act as a deterrent by making criminals think twice."