A FORMER police sergeant is back on the beat patrolling the streets of Harwich in a bid to cut down crime and reassure residents.

Tony Francis has launched a community group in Harwich called Piecing Community Together.

Anyone is welcome to join and regular meetings are held to discuss problems in the town, campaigns and community events.

The latest initiative launched by the group is Passive Engagement Patrols - the idea being Tony, or possibly trained others, walk around the town and visit hotspot trouble locations.

But Tony says it is strictly not a confrontational role and instead is aimed at "just talking".

He said: "We did our first foot patrols a week ago, we are going out and talking to people.

"If there are hotspot areas that the police inform us of or that are on the crime Facebook pages we will visit them.

"All we will do is chat to people. We can't go in with any authority, we are not an authority, else you only get confrontation.

"It was quite successful on the first night - I did get confronted by two on quad bikes and one on a motorbike.

"But I've had a few times where I believe they may have been about to do something but they haven't done it - nobody commits a burglary if someone is looking

"I street pastor in Colchester and it's a similar thing.

"It's not something everybody can do and I wouldn't want everybody doing it.

"We want to get to the place where we can signpost people to the appropriate resources we have in the community."

Tony was a policeman for 22 years, including a time as sergeant at Harwich Police Station.

He added: "The fear of crime, as I know from my police experience, is worse than the crime itself.

"When I was a sergeant at Harwich we were over-staffed.

"As an officer in Colchester rushing around job to hob I knew my colleagues in Harwich had nothing to do and I thought why don't they come here and help me - now that's what they are doing.

"What I'm doing is looking for social solutions.

"In Harwich, where everybody knows everybody, crime can be dealt with in a different way.

"We can no longer rely on the nanny state, I want to deconstruct the nanny state and get things back to where they used to be.

"I want mums being mums and dads being dads.

"I want the fear of crime reduced - if an old man like me is able to walk around Harwich at night and talk to people I will."

Piecing Community Together, which has already given aid to a rough sleeper, is also set to host alcohol and drug addiction conferences in the town.

For more information or to join visit the Community Hub page for the group on Facebook.