THE COUNCIL could employ three police officers or private security guards after reported incidents of violent ‘cuckooing’ and sawn-off shotgun possession were allowed to continue.

At an Epping Forest Cabinet meeting on February 1, councillors will decide whether to employ a trio of police officers for £185,000 a year, three private security contractors for £140,000 or a hybrid of one sergeant, two constables and a security company performing targeted work for £215,000.

Officers have suggested the hybrid option following a recent spike in burglary and car thefts in Epping Forest that has the district the worst hit in Essex.

The report, which suggests a 2.5 per cent council tax increase to cover the costs, highlights a number of incidents when council and police cooperation failed.

In July 2017 for example, a closure order was obtained for a council property in Sandford Avenue, Loughton, following reports of cuckooing whereby a drug dealer had taken over a vulnerable person’s home.

Two months and numerous order breaches later, the council contacted the police directly. Officers attended to find a person in possession of a 9mm handgun, a sawn-off shotgun and class A drugs.

Because no representation was made by the district’s Community Safety team, the man was released with no further action.

A second closure order and a police raid in November would lead to a successful arrest.

In another incident a tenant was persuaded to leave a property in Prescott Green, Loughton after police arrested three men for drug offences.

When a council employee arrived to change to locks they encountered two wanted men and called for police back up, with a loan officer arriving shortly after.

The report reads: “The single officer detained one person whilst the other made off.

“During this action the man became very violent to the police officer and the council’s investigator needed to give assistance to the police officer resulting in him receiving cuts and bruises, his shirt being ripped and his clothing covered with the man’s blood, which was later found to be contaminated with the Hepatitis virus.”

If employed, the officers would wear body cameras, drive cars provided by Essex Police and work Monday to Friday, with some late, weekend and pre-planned deployment shifts on public holidays.

In recent years the council has employed private security company Parkguard to provide an additional uniformed response.

As well as intelligence gathering in Limes Farm following a series of stabbing, Parkguard officers have undertaken hi-vis patrols in Waltham Abbey.

The report concludes: “From internal discussion and consideration of work undertaken elsewhere in Essex and further afield, it is suggested that a hybrid option would provide the most beneficial resource to the Council in terms of preventative and proactive work to address local issues.

“To ensure good supervision and resource management of additional police resources, the model would need to include three police officers, including a sergeant and two police constables.

“The services of a security company would only be called upon to support high profile incidents or seasonal priorities, or to provide targeted youth engagement work.”