THE internal police report suggesting the Crime Prevention Bureau (CPB) let commercial security companies take over the work of advising private business on crime prevention is short-sighted and inconsistent. Not so long ago, a spate of violent robberies on gold shops and jewellers prompted calls for the police to step up their public education work and advise vulnerable businesses on store security. Now the department which is best equipped for the role is being told to give priority to public and government properties. This is justified on the spurious grounds that free advice on building security to private companies is 'over-generous'. It is not. Prevention is both cheaper and more effective than cure. If advising the private sector on crime prevention is considered a matter for commercial security businesses today, will the investigation of crimes committed against private businesses be the preserve of private detectives tomorrow? Advocates of smaller, cheaper government might argue that it should be - or that the police should charge commercial rates for their services. They might win some public support for the notion that policing and crowd control at private events like pop-concerts or football matches be charged to the organisers. However, there is a real danger of a return to corruption once the principle of policing as a free public service is abandoned. If the police force charges commercial fees for preserving law and order, individual officers could be tempted to start charging their own fees for protection. It is widely feared the handover to Chinese rule may be the catalyst for a resurgence of police and official corruption. Yet it is changes of attitude to public service at management level which may constitute the greater long-term threat to civil and disciplined service probity.