SHOPPERS in Basingstoke got the chance to learn more about part-time law enforcers at a recruitment and awareness event for the Special Constabulary.

A trio of special constables manned a stall in Festival Place over the weekend to share their experiences and answer any questions.

The event formed part of the constabulary's recruitment drive - aimed at increasing the number of specials in Basingstoke by 25 per cent before the end of 2005. The town currently has 40 special constables working alongside its 205 police officers.

Stewart Packham, divisional officer for Basingstoke Special Constabulary, was one of those giving advice. He joined 20 years ago after seeing a plea for volunteers in The Gazette.

Mr Packham combines his work on the beat in Kingsclere with his full-time job at an engineering firm in Newbury. He said he enjoys the challenge offered by the Special Constabulary.

"You get a great deal from it. It does build confidence and it does give you a different perspective on life," he said.

Superintendent Paul Netherton, of Basingstoke police, said special constables play a key role. He said: "Special constables increase public confidence and help reduce crime.

"They work side-by-side with regular officers and we are lucky to have such fine people giving their time voluntarily to help make Basingstoke a safer place." Volunteers must be physically fit, aged between 18 and 55 and have 20 spare hours a month.

Successful candidates will be required to pass an aptitude test, complete a medical questionnaire and must be of good character.

To find out more about the role, visit the Hampshire Constabulary website at or www. police or call Hampshire Police Recruiting on 0845 72 72 272.