The frontline for neighbourhood policing is ‘moving off the street and into our front rooms’, according to Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
Sussex Police brought in a new model this summer, reducing the number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and changing their roles to keep pace with shifting types of crime being committed in the county.
However members of the Sussex Police and Crime Panel questioned Sussex PCC Katy Bourne last Friday (September 23) about the effectiveness of the changes and how they fit in with her priority to ‘strengthen local policing’.
Trevor Webb, a Hastings borough and East Sussex county councillor, said there had been an ‘explosive meeting’ in his area with residents complaining about increases in anti-social behaviour, street drinking, and youth problems since the changes were brought in.
He asked: “Is the commissioner satisfied that these savings will not have a major effect on communities throughout Sussex?”
Mrs Bourne replied: “I am aware of concerns and will continue to scrutinise, but the new model has only just started to be rolled out, it has been operational barely two months and we need to give it time to bed in.”
She added: “I am confident the new policing model is where it should be right now I and I will continue to scrutinise it and continue to challenge the chief constable around this.”
When discussing the police and crime plan for 2017-2021, Brighton and Hove city councillor Emma Daniel suggested a change to the wording of Mrs Bourne’s priority from ‘strengthen local policing’ to something such as ‘transform’ as residents might think this would mean an increase in the number and visibility of PCSOs.
Ms Daniel said: “It will be a stick to beat you with from the public’s point of view.”
She argued that changes to the role Of PCSOs to deal with new crime times was a ‘totally reasonable argument to make’ but it had to be ‘articulated clearly’.
Mrs Bourne replied: “Strengthening local policing is what I said in my manifesto and I meant it and is what I was elected on.”
She explained that in a survey of elderly residents in Sussex, 20 per cent were more terrified when the phone rings rather than going out of the front door.
She added: “The front line for policing is moving off the street and into our front rooms. What does strengthening local policing mean? It means different things to different people.”
Sandra James, leader of the UKIP group at West Sussex County Council, said that the strength of the previous model involved PCSOs ‘nipping low level crime in the bud before it escalates’.
But Mrs Bourne said: “What you see is a small piece of the iceberg at the tip behind the officer you will see or the car that goes past.”
She added: “We are in a safe county and have a very responsive police force who work incredibly hard on our behalf.”
After the meeting, West Sussex county councillor Brad Watson, who chairs the panel, said: “With strengthening local policing a priority for Mrs Bourne, members were concerned that this new model would not help her achieve this.
“The role of enhanced mobile technology in strengthening local policing needs to be more fully demonstrated to residents.”
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