Campaigners took to the streets of Lynn at the weekend to gather support for their fight against sweeping police cuts across Norfolk.
Almost 1,800 people have now signed a petition demanding the resources necessary to halt the plan to axe all the county’s police community support officers (PCSOs) and close many of its public enquiry desks.
But both of West Norfolk’s MPs have given their backing to the measures.
Last week, Norfolk Police chief constable, Simon Bailey, announced the force’s intention to make all of its 150 PCSOs redundant and close several enquiry offices across the county, including those in Downham, Fakenham and Hunstanton.
The force says the moves will help to save £10 million from its budgets over the next three years, although the proposals also include the recruitment of around 80 new police officers.
An online petition calling for additional funding to reverse the cuts had been signed by more than 1,500 people yesterday afternoon.
And almost 200 more backed the fight during a campaigning session in Lynn’s town centre on Sunday.
North West Norfolk Labour party secretary Jo Rust, who launched the petition, said: “We are vehemently opposed to the removal of all PCSOs, the closure of our rural police stations and public enquiry offices.
“We believe the only way to secure the safety of the public is for a fully financed police force which funds the £30 million taken between 2010 and 2016 and the additional £10 million of cuts now to be made.
“We need to invest more in our policing, not take staff and resources out.”
Mr Bailey said the action was necessary to help the force meet its financial challenges and ensure it was better placed to meet the threats posed by modern crime threats.
And his stance has been supported by West Norfolk’s MPs, Elizabeth Truss and Sir Henry Bellingham.
In a Twitter post, Ms Truss said she had been assured that all PCSOs would be supported in applying to become PCs or take up other positions.
Sir Henry said that, while it was “very sad” the PCSOs would lose their jobs, the changing nature of crime meant policing had to change.
He said: “Given that PCSO’s do not have the power to arrest, process or interview prisoners and given they cannot use police cars for pursuits and cannot deploy outside of the county, it must make sense to take this really tough decision to replace the 150 with 81 fully trained Police Constables and Sergeants.
“Today’s announcement should also be seen in the context of the very large investment currently taking place in Lynn Station.
“This will give us a state-of-the-art facility, fit for the 21st century that will be at the envy of other communities.”
But Mrs Rust, who stood against Sir Henry at June’s general election, claimed he was going against the promise he made when he was re-elected of working with the emergency services to secure service improvements.
She said: “Cutting staff and resources is not making improvements. Officers with the powers of arrest need the intelligence that comes from having engagement with the local community through the work the PCSOs undertake.”