I am a PCSO. In October we were told PCSOs would no longer be part of Norfolk Constabulary and this was due to funding and there was no alternative due to the rise in serious crimes reported.
This is understandable. Serious, violent offences, burglaries etc require a detective to investigate. Cyber crimes are complex and time consuming. However, I was shocked to read the Chief Constable’s comments so soon after. He implied basically that PCSOs were a “nice” thing to have and that we can’t afford “nice”. He said: “It is the nice things such as PCSOs dropping into the WI or a flower club that has to go simply because we cannot afford it.”
And now we have Police and Crime Commissioner Lorne Green saying: “If I had all the money in the world I would not hire more PCSOs. As valuable as they have been they don’t offer the flexibility and skills necessary to deal with 21st century crime in this county.” Their words feel like a stab in the back, demeaning and belittling the role that has most definitely changed over the years but has helped the lives of many people who were victims of ASB or crime. If Simon Bailey actually believes that is what our role is, he should not be chief constable because he has no idea. But if he knows what we frequently deal with, then he is misleading you deliberately in order to push his plan through. When I became a PCSO, we were community support officers. We dealt with issues that affected the quality of life of residents. Local youths knew us by name. We dealt with low level crime and visited victims and carried out the basic investigations. How can you measure how many crimes have been prevented by our presence in an area? We were the friendly face of policing and folks trusted us. The beginning of the end started a couple of years ago. They reduced PCSO numbers by half and we became police support officers. The majority of our time now is spent carrying out house-to-house and CCTV inquiries for over-stretched police officers. We are used to seal scenes of crime, close roads at RTCs, await boarding up at addresses and for recovery vehicles. With so few PCSOs left, we have lost a grip on the ASB. We no longer have the time to spend on our patches and intelligence has taken a nosedive and ASB is on the rise. When we are gone, who will deal with the street drinkers and drug users, preventing ASB, removing alcohol, moving people on? Who will deal with the low-level crimes of criminal damage, theft of a bike, shed breaks etc? These crimes will still happen. Already these low level crimes are being recorded over the phone by the control room and closed off without any investigation. The caller does not get to see anyone and lines of inquiry are often missed. Low-level crime that affects the majority of people will simply be recorded. It is said that 81 extra police officers will be in our place. Of those, one will be a chief inspector and 20 will be sergeants. Do you think you will see those out on the street? Norfolk police will become a reactive service, investigating crimes that have already occurred instead of trying to prevent them. The claim is that “visible” policing will continue. Visible means Twitter and Facebook. If you think you will see a PC on the beat, you will be sorely disappointed.