NEW COMMUNITY warden Martin Caiger means business in Bognor Regis.
Mr Caiger started work on Monday as the first sign of the town’s Business Improvement District scheme in practice.
His 40 hours a week patrolling the BID area around the centre are being funded by businesses to make shoppers feel safer and to protect traders against criminals.
He has taken on the role of community warden after five months as a business warden, which Bognor Regis shared with other towns in the region. Mr Caiger said: “During that time, I would say I have detained 20 people, mainly for shoplifting, and there have been some incidents of anti-social behaviour.
“I have seen people walking away as well when they see me and I regard it as good that they see me as a deterrent.”
Mr Caiger has also retrieved goods which have been stolen from shops in other incidents.
He has the power to detain suspects in handcuffs because his employer, SWL security services, is recognised by Sussex Police under the community safety accreditation scheme because it has met the force’s vetting procedures.
The police can also choose to share information with him when they think it will benefit his work.
Mr Caiger began his new role on Monday. Businesses in the BID area – from the Royal Norfolk Hotel to Butlin’s and up to the University of Chichester – will be able to contact him on a mobile phone number which will be circulated to them or on the Shopwatch radio scheme.
He is already familiar to most businesses because of his previous work in the town. He is also lives in the area.
“You certainly see a different side to the town centre when you are working like this rather than coming here to shop. I have got the passion for the town and I want to try and make it like it used to be,” he said.
The 12-month contract between Bognor Regis BID and SWL security services fulfils one of the priorities of a safer and more welcoming town centre set out by the BID supporters when they voted in the summer of 2017 for it to be formed. That approval saw the BID team start work last April.
Wilkos store manager Mark Halls is a director of Bognor Regis BID and said the new warden would benefit everyone who worked and shopped in the town centre.
“By having a uniformed presence on patrol in the town centre, it makes people feel safer,” he said.
Wilkos was one of the stores visited nearly five months ago by Sussex Police assistant chief constable Laurence Taylor and Katy Bourne, the Sussex police and crime commissioner, after anger from businesses at the amount of disorder in the town centre.
Mr Halls said: “I don’t feel there’s been much change in the situation since that visit. I’ve not seen much increase in the police presence.
“We all know the police’s resources are very stretched and there needs to be an additional method of policing our town.
“Anything we can do as businesses to support the police has to be a benefit for the people of Bognor Regis.”
Bognor Regis BID chairman Paul Wells said: “The warden service is a welcome development for the BID area and will play an important part in providing a high visibility presence and providing an important service to the levy payers.”
The BID is funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on most business premises in its area. This is calculated to produce £142,000 annually during the scheme’s five years.
The new community warden differs from the business wardens, which are a pilot scheme funded by Southern Co-op and which can see them moved anywhere in the company’s area.
But Mr Caiger is not replacing the police and crime incidents should still be reported to Sussex Police.