Children are being used to spot speeding motorists and go on night-time patrols.
The ‘Mini Police’ project for those aged nine to 11 was started by Durham Constabulary and is now being taken up across the country. It gives uniforms to pupils in ‘economically deprived areas’ and invites them to special events.
The idea, according to official documents, is that ‘vulnerable children’ will be given a ‘positive experience of policing’ and ‘get involved in the local community’.
But they can also ‘support subtle educational interventions to tackle Serious Organised Crime’ and ‘gun and gang crime’.
Units of the Mini Police often go out on ‘community speed watch’ duty, monitoring passing motorists on busy roads.
Some are equipped with speed guns while others hold up digital boards alerting drivers that they are going too fast.
The Home Office is contributing £8,000 to an academic assessment of Mini Police, described as ‘the largest-scale primary school “youth association” delivery model ever led by UK policing’.
In Norfolk, where all 150 Police Community Support Officers are being axed to save money, police have been accused of putting teenagers at risk in a similar scheme.
Acting Inspector Mick Andrew posted online a photo of ten youngsters in high-vis jackets, with the caption: ‘Thetford Police Cadets heading out on [anti-social behaviour] patrols of the town centre.’
It prompted an incredulous response on Twitter, with solicitor Nicholas Diable warning: ‘Even if they’re tagging along it strikes me that a situation could quickly get out of hand and then you’ve got a violent situation with PCs having to defend the kids they’re responsible for… An exceptionally bad plan.’
A Norfolk Police spokesman said: ‘All relevant risk assessments were carried out.’