Published in the C&E Sunday 1 January 2012 10:45
A SERVING Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) from Northamptonshire has warned a “vacuum” will be left in the county if the number of community officers is slashed.
In an open letter to the Chronicle & Echo the PCSO, who wishes to remain anonymous, described the popular officers as the “glue” that allows police, councils and other agencies to protect vulnerable people up and down the county.
The officer said plans by Northamptonshire County Council, Northampton Borough Council and Northamptonshire Police to slash almost 50 PCSOs could leave vulnerable members of the public “stranded” and warned the cuts, if passed, would also have a “knock-on” effect on other parts of society.
The letter, printed in full, said:
Since the introduction of PCSOs a decade ago, we have undoubtedly seen a marked improvement in the policing of Northamptonshire’s communities. PCSOs are now, without doubt, firmly embedded in our local communities. While there is still much work to be done, I feel we have established ourselves as the “glue” that enables other agencies and community members to provide much needed help to those that are vulnerable in our society.
Simply by being there and recognising those people who have slipped through the net our proximity is surely justified. Policing is very often perceived as being a service that protects people and police constables seen as being reactive rather than pro-active. But the fact remains that we do need to deal with the root causes of crime and that is a matter of getting under the skin of our local communities.
Modern society is now more complex than it ever was, so we need a police service that changes with the times – and thankfully it has. To protect is important, but there is also a need to prevent, and to support the people we serve. The role of the PCSO meets all three of these objectives.
Primarily, we are there to reassure our public simply by being there on foot patrol, providing advice and support, as well as to educate all of the residents living on our designated beats. If plans are put in place to phase us out over a period of time our public will be left stranded and our disappearance will leave a vacuum that will not be filled by police constables.
As one of my local vulnerable people put it: “What will we do without you? Who will look out for me now?” It is a simple but extremely effective idea to have an officer in your area for the vast majority of the time. Rapport is formed with all members of our communities including victims of crime and active criminals. From these interactions a large quantity of community intelligence is collected and used by all employees within the policing family.
It is the subsequent picture that is formed from this intelligence that enables us as a police force to work more efficiently and to be more effective in our day-to-day work.
A clarification on what we do is important: Our purpose is to provide reassurance and foot patrol, visit victims of crime and vulnerable people, offer crime prevention advice, deter shoplifters, and liaise with community agencies, residents’ associations and other community groups.
We investigate anti-social behaviour, liaising with schools and universities, and deliver presentations to young children, to educate, to issue penalty notices for disorder and anti-social-behaviour, to disseminate crime prevention information, aid police officers and act as a professional witness. We are, by all accounts, the eyes and ears of the community. We help by providing solutions to prevalent community problems.
These are just a few of the things we do. There are many more.
So here are the facts: crime and anti-social behaviour has been significantly reduced since the advent of the PCSO. The areas I have served have seen a huge improvement in residents’ quality of life and as a consequence public confidence in the police has, in turn, soared. This cannot be refuted. The council’s decision to withdraw funding is a decision that will impact on local communities.
Fewer officers on our streets will have a knock-on effect. I hope the council reconsiders this proposal. A budget needs to be set but has the question been asked: will the public pay more to sustain the current numbers of police officers? A straw poll I conducted suggests they would.
We are not only fighting for our jobs but we are also fighting for our communities, which is something we do every working day of our lives. Help us to continue this and build on the excellent record we, as part of the police family, have achieved.
A hard-working PCSO