Thats the way my force seems to be going. Someone has decided to axe one of our most successful depatments and all to save 150,000 ($276750) a year.

Makes you wonder what these people are thinking when Violent crime is one of the areas that worries the public most and is increasing.

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12:00 - 02 May 2006
The police unit that tackles football hooligans in Notts has been axed just over a month before the start of the World Cup. GUY WOODFORD and GUY WALKER report on fears the move could lead to an increase in football violence

In little more than a month, England's players will take to the pitch for their first World Cup match against Paraguay.

But while some people fancy England's chances of glory at the tournament in Germany, many eyes will also be on activity off the field - seeing whether our fans behave themselves.

Officials are desperate not to see a return of the ugly scenes of football violence last witnessed at Euro 2000 in Belgium.

Police forces around the country have been working hard to ensure the chances of organised violence at the World Cup are slim. And none more so than Notts Police and its Football Intelligence Unit.

But the Evening Post can reveal the unit, also known as the Pact (Police and Clubs Together) team, has been axed.

Notts Deputy Chief Constable Howard Roberts said the unit's work will be taken on by the divisions of the force, and insists the impact will be minimal.

But the Post understands some officers are concerned the move could lead to an upsurge in violence

And even those who know about hooliganism from the inside have warned of the danger of disbanding one of the force's best-performing units.

Former hooligan Gary "Boatsy" Clarke, 40, who was given a six-year banning order in 2004 and wrote the book Inside the Forest Executive Crew, said a new generation of hooligans could emerge.

He said: "The unit has got on top of hooligans in Notts and over the past two or three years have killed it off.

"A lot of the old group have had enough, but a young crew, the 17 to 18-year-olds, could start to come through and the police could be years behind them."

Eddie Curtis, who was a chief superintendent in charge of England's anti-hooligan operations at Euro 2000 and is now safety officer at Nottingham Forest, said: "The lack of a dedicated football intelligence unit will not be felt immediately, but in two to three years' time we will have new ringleaders of football hooliganism in this county who may slip through the net and cause a lot of trouble.

"Hooliganism has not gone away. This season there were problems when Forest played in Blackpool.

"We are dealing with a type of person who, if you take an eye off the ball, will take full advantage."

The Notts Police football intelligence unit's main role has been identifying, monitoring and building up evidence against known football hooligans.

It has secured 105 banning orders.

Forty of these are only suspects, who have not been convicted of a football-related offence.

These bans - known as Section B orders - target the ringleaders of hooligan groups, forcing them to hand over passports before tournaments.

Notts has more of these bans, which will be in place for the World Cup but some of which may expire before the 2008 European Championships, than any other force in the country.

The disbanding of the 150,000-a-year unit is a money-saving move after it lost out on Home Office funding.

A hole in the police pension fund has also left Notts Police needing to find 6m out of this year's budget.

Notts Deputy Chief Constable Howard Roberts said: "Due to the withdrawal of Government funding and the tightness of this year's force budget, there will no longer be a police Pact team of an inspector and two other officers over the next year.

"Ninety per cent of the work they do will be absorbed by the divisions, including the monitoring of hooligans from Notts banned from travelling to the World Cup.

"We will also still be sending out an officer from Notts to help police the World Cup in Germany.

"We will review our decision in a year's time.

"If our financial position has changed, we will consider reintroducing them. We don't want to lose the impetus created on tackling football-related violence and I want to make it clear that we will continue to go after those who cause trouble at our football grounds."

But police authority chairman Coun John Clarke is critical of the move.

He said: "Any rise in violence at games will hinder Nottingham's chances of being a venue if England win the chance to stage a future World Cup. A return to hooliganism at matches would also ruin Nottingham's image."

The move also worries the clubs. Tony Cuthbert, Notts secretary, said: "I'm very concerned all the hard work put in place by the Pact team will be thrown away."

And Paul Ellis, chairman of the Forest Supporters' Club, said: "It's disappointing to hear the unit has gone and I'm worried of the effect of the work no longer being done by specialist officers."

The responsibility for policing Forest and Notts County games will be taken on by Chief Inspector Andrew Burton, of South Notts Police, while Mansfield Town games will be under Chief Inspector John Eyre, of Mansfield and Ashfield police.

Inspector Greg Drozdowski, who led the unit, will remain as a consultant to the divisional officers.

But the two police officers who worked with him on the unit and have built up extensive knowledge of the local hooligan scene will no longer be regularly involved in football policing.

PC John Harris and PC John Sleigh will join the operational support unit as tactical firearms officers.

Insp Drozdowski said: "I am proud of what the Pact team has achieved. There have been no major problems with hooliganism in Notts in the team's three years.

"Some forces want trouble to take place so it's easier to get banning orders and more funding.

"What we did was analyse intelligence and historical evidence to identify the ringleaders and use banning orders to stop them attending games.