Villages to pay for more policing

VILLAGES in west Suffolk could end up paying for extra community policing amid concerns the economic climate will lead to rising crime rates.

VILLAGES in west Suffolk could end up paying for extra community policing amid concerns the economic climate will lead to rising crime rates.

Suffolk police is in talks with a number of parish councils about sharing the costs of village-dedicated police community support officers (PCSO).

But one critic has hit out at the idea of villagers paying extra for policing through the parish precept and called for the police to “do more” with its existing budgets.

One village looking to part-fund the cost of a PCSO is Thurston, where negotiations are already underway with Suffolk police.

Thurston Parish Council had previously looked into hiring its own village security guard but that idea was eventually dropped.

The parish council started looking at part-funding a PCSO after it emerged Suffolk Constabulary had received funding for an extra 10 PCSOs across the county. Although parish councillors claim Thurston does not have a big problem with crime, concerns were raised about an increase in incidents as the economic climate worsens.

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Parish council vice chairman Andrew Sprake said the council hoped having a full-time PCSO dedicated to the village would be a “reassurance” for residents.

“We are looking into it,” he said. “There are a number of parish councils looking at the idea of part funding a community support officer. We recently had a parish council meeting and we are still looking into it. The idea is we would pay 50% and the police would pay the other 50%.”

During a meeting with parish council members, Suffolk police's business liaison manager Leigh Jenkins told members that having their own PCSO would not mean a cut in policing by existing neighbourhood police officers.

He said the PCSO would be dedicated to patrolling the village, thereby becoming a familiar figure with residents.

But the idea of villages paying for extra policing was last night criticised by Rex Thake, Glemsford and Stanstead member on Babergh District Council.

He said: “I am very sceptical about it and I think the police need to do more with their budgets. The only real answer is the old fashioned village bobby.”

He said Glemsford Parish Council, of which he is a member, was also considering the idea of part-funding a PCSO.

Mr Thake said he was against the idea because PCSOs had limited powers to deal with incidents and claimed there was little difference between a PCSO and a private security guard.

“Speaking personally, I would need to know that anybody employed is responsible to us as a parish council and that they have the appropriate powers to deal with things.”

Julian Swainson, member of Suffolk Police Authority, said: “It won't be right everywhere but working in partnership can bring benefits.”

He said the joint-funded PCSOs were over and above existing policing arrangements and could be very useful in those communities which felt they needed extra support.

Suffolk's Assistant Chief Constable Gary Kitching said last week that PCSOs were the “backbone” of new neighbourhood policing teams and their impact had been “enormous”.

His comments followed reports that the 140 PCSOs in Suffolk had solved just five crimes and handed out one penalty notice between April 2007 and March last year.

He said: “Sometimes if you try and reduce things to pure statistics it does not always work - this is about people in Suffolk feeling safe and I think PCSOs are essential to that strategy.”