TWO thousand smart phones will be handed to police officers across Essex in a bid to increase visible patrols on the streets.

Roger Hirst, Essex’s police and crime commissioner, revealed that he has bought a new batch of mobile phones so officers spend more time on the beat.

At a public meeting at Basildon Lower Academy, in Timberlog Close, on Thursday, he told residents and councillors that having the technology would mean officers could handle paperwork out and about, instead of driving back to a police station to do it.

He said: “I think there is a lot we can do to help with more local, visible and accessible policing.

“I have identified where we can use technology better.

“I have already ordered 2,000 new smartphones so officers can do their work remotely so they don’t have to go back to the station to fill out paperwork.

“They can do it in places like Costa Coffee or Greggs so they remain in the community and can be quickly and easily deployed back out on patrol.

“I have also invested quite heavily in making their work easier when doing paperwork.”

It is estimated that Mr Hirst has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the new venture, although an exact figure has not yet been revealed.

The initiative is part of a new police and crime plan, developed by the commissioner, which aims to make officers more accessible to the public, crack down on antisocial behaviour, tackle gangs and reverse the trend in serious violence..

Mr Hirst said: “We need to improve the way we employ our resources.

“It will be good to have more officers but people don’t want to pay more tax.

“For me, it would be a case of a bit of both - a council tax increase and more effective deployment through new technology.”

He said the initiative followed the example of other forces, including Humberside.

He said: “In other forces where they have done it, for example in Humberside, there has been 20 per cent more time on patrol, which is very encouraging and is something we want in our force too.”

Mr Hirst also hopes to increase the number of officers on patrol, by recruiting more special constables, who volunteer their free time and have the same powers as a neighbourhood constable.

He aims to have one stationed in every neighbourhood in the county.