Why we are cutting PCSO numbers to increase Safer Neighbourhood Teams

PCSOs in Lowestoft town centre. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

PCSOs in Lowestoft town centre. Picture: NICK BUTCHER - Credit: Nick Butcher

Last week Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner and chief constable announced proposals to move more than 100 police officers into Safer Neighbourhood Teams while reducing the number of PCSOs. Today, writing exclusively for the EADT and Ipswich Star. chief constable Gareth Wilson explains in greater detail why the constabulary needs to change.

PCSO numbers will be cut by around half under the new plans Picture: GREGG BROWN

PCSO numbers will be cut by around half under the new plans Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

I have been a police officer for nearly 30 years and have been proud to lead Suffolk Constabulary for the last three.

Being the chief and serving the people of Suffolk is a great honour.

I have seen and experienced plenty of incidents in my career, so not a lot surprises me.

However, what astounds me is the pace of change we are seeing in policing across the country.

Chief Constable Gareth Wilson. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Chief Constable Gareth Wilson. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

This includes the rise of technology, the increasing demands the police are facing and the constantly changing nature of our crime profile.

Among the challenges we must respond to are increases in reported sexual offences and domestic abuse, youth gang violence, drug offences, cyber-enabled crime, modern slavery and terrorism.

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It’s my job to respond by ensuring we use our limited resources to tackle these issues and enable us to keep you - the people we serve - safe from harm.

This has to be at the core of everything we do, which is why we have been very careful in thinking through the changes we are seeking to bring in and why I have been working very closely with our police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore, to ensure I better understand your concerns.

We need a workforce with the right skills to tackle these complex crimes so this is why the force is doing everything we can to maintain - and where possible increase - the number of police officers we have.

Having more police officers in Safer Neighbourhood Teams will allow us to work smarter to tackle these challenges.

To help fund this means there would be a reduction in the numbers of police community support officers (PCSOs) across the county. We currently have 81 in post and this would reduce to 48.

These are clearly difficult decisions that impact upon each individual member of staff affected.

This is not just about saving money, it’s about making sure we’ve got the right people in the right place and with the right powers to keep you safe.

Nothing shows we mean business more than raiding a drug dealer’s house at 4am and these proposals make sure this remains at the core of what we do.

It’s plain and simple – if you deal drugs or commit crime in our wonderful county expect to be raided and for us to put you before the courts.

It’s also far better to prevent incidents happening in the first place and I believe PCSOs have a key role within Suffolk, working with partner agencies and coming up with solutions that will ensure we prevent as much as we can.

I’m sure many of you will be wondering what will happen to those PCSOs who don’t fill one of the remaining 48 roles.

Suffolk Constabulary has a great track record of keeping our talent within the force and I’m very keen to retain this experience through redeployment into other jobs within the organisation.

The PCC’s decision to increase the council tax precept has allowed us to retain and invest in areas we did not think we were going to be able to - but with demand increasing and resources decreasing, we need to make sure we prioritise in those areas that present the highest risk to communities.

The consultation process for our proposed changes began when we made our announcement last Wednesday. It ends on August 31 and any changes will be implemented by the end of October.

More details of these proposals can be found on the Suffolk Constabulary website.

We welcome any feedback and invite you to come to one of the ‘On Tour’ public events the PCC and I are holding at seven locations during August.

The first is at Eye Town Hall on August 6. All the remaining dates can be found on the Suffolk PCC website.

My pledge to you is that I will keep you updated with developments on how we are changing and I thank you for your ongoing support.

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