A PLAN to target serious crime with an FBI-style North West police force was revealed by one of the region's most senior officers yesterday.
Cheshire Chief Constable Peter Fahy outlined the radical proposal which would see a specialist police team dealing with major incidents throughout Merseyside, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria.
Each force would continue dealing with localised crime but hand over the more serious incidents and those which span county borders to the "FBI".
Mr Fahy's vision was presented following calls for his force to be merged with Merseyside Police. Last month Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabularies proposed creating 30 "super-forces" by merging smaller police forces with larger neighbours.
The report said forces with fewer than 4,000 officers struggled to cope with many demands of modern crime, such as firearms, Class A drugs, immigration, money laundering and counterfeit goods. Cheshire has 2,214 officers, compared with 4,339 in Merseyside.
Mr Fahy said: "This report deals with the serious crime end of the spectrum, but if anything the challenge is just as great at the local end."
At a briefing held at Cheshire Police HQ in Winsford, Mr Fahy said he was looking at a three-tier system for the North West, with a top tier acting as a strategic force which would deal with major incidents and crimes across the North West. It would also provide specialised investigation units, forensics and general administrative functions.
Below that would be forces which follow the existing constabulary areas, with local units which would provide the neighbourhood policing being demanded by the public and politicians.
Mr Fahy said: "It does not make sense for 43 forces to be developing their own policy and having their own separate support services. But we have to be pretty sure that anything else we're going to move to is going to be an improvement.
"In that regard there are two options: two or three forces coming together in a bigger unit; or us going for a much larger organisation, perhaps on a regional basis. This would have the greatest ability to create specialist capabilities.
"But it would also be essential to retain local identity and autonomy, so local people and elected members would have influence in local policing." Mr Fahy said the type of force he envisaged for the North West would be "better than the FBI" because it would be linked from top to bottom.
He said a North West force would be smaller in number than the Metropolitan Police, and added: "As an organisation it's manageable, although geography is still a factor. We would not be sending an officer from Cumbria to deal with a job in Crewe." A decision is expected from the Home Secretary in the first few months of 2006.
He said: "There's been too long a period of uncertainty. We said to the Home Secretary as chief constables, if you're going to do it then do it."
Last week, Merseyside Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe said all five North West forces could be swallowed up into one "super-force", or some of the five forces could merge.
Cheshire officers blame Merseyside residents for vehicle crimes
MORE than 50% of afternoon and evening vehicle crime in Halton and Warrington is committed by criminals from Merseyside, say Cheshire Police.
For example yesterday, three people from Liverpool were arrested in Warrington town centre.
They were being questioned last night on suspicion of stealing from cars.
The recent Operation Rejoice by Cheshire officers led to the arrest of four men from the Liverpool area.
Police believe they were operating as part of a gang which had stolen more than 300 car stereos from Cheshire and the North West. They have since been bailed.