£1m to boost police cover

PUBLISHED: 09:05 22 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:04 22 October 2010


Norfolk's network of police community support officers is set to double by the end of this year as the Home Office contributes an additional £1m to underline its vision of neighbourhood policing.

Norfolk's network of police community support officers is set to double by the end of this year as the Home Office contributes an additional £1m to underline its vision of neighbourhood policing.

News of the extra cash and the faster rolling out of PCSOs - a cornerstone of the Government's Safer neighbourhoods scheme - will provide some reassurance to the public about local policing given the continued uncertainty surrounding plans to merge Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire into a regional 'super force'.

It came as Chief Constable Carole Howlett visited Yarmouth market place to herald the first of three safer neighbourhood teams, which form part of a £91m nationwide programme designed to return bobbies to the beat.

PCSOs are civilian staff who wear uniforms, but who do not have the powers of regular police officers. But they can issue fixed penalty notices for minor offences such as littering and confiscate alcohol and tobacco from young people.

In Norfolk, the new emphasis on community policing will see the number of the distinctive-looking officers double to 138 by the end of this year and rise to 189 by the end of April 2007.

They will be assigned along with dedicated police officers to each community, where they will work to clamp down on anti-social behaviour, vandalism, drugs offences and car crime.

Three schemes are already in place, at south Yarmouth, Bradwell and Sheringham, with 16 others being rolled out in the north and east of the county within a year, and all others in place by 2008.

Each will be run in conjunction with local authorities, with Yarmouth Borough Council environmental rangers in place in the first two dealing with vandalism, street lighting and cleaning.

Mrs Howlett told the EDP that PCSOs would give the public what they had been crying out for in terms of more visible uniformed police and the kind of trust and confidence in the police that had broken down in neighbourhoods.

As part of the new approach to local policing, sergeants would brief officers and PCSOs in the street and local people would be allowed to listen in and contribute themselves. The move would also free up serving officers to concentrate on volume crime such as burglary and car crime.

“Regardless of what happens with the merger we will be rolling out safer neighbourhoods,” she said last night .

“The focus on the local delivery of services by dedicated teams of officers together with a wide range of other agencies who will not be pulled away to deal with other things will be really important in terms of public reassurance and feelings of safety and confidence.

“It will be giving us greater visibility, greater access to officers and PCSOs, and provide an opportunity to focus more sharply on anti-social behaviour issues. That means police officers can focus on the serious end of crime and the PCSOs can concentrate on 'quality of life' issues.

“People are not that concerned about burglary and motor vehicle crime because it does not affect that many people in Norfolk. It is the rowdiness, vandalism and drunkenness that really impacts on people.”

Stephen Bett, chairman of Norfolk Police Authority, said: “We are moving away from sector policing which was for the convenience of the police and to neighbourhood policing so that people know who their respective officers are and who to go to if they have a problem. In market towns there will be things like street briefings so that the public can come and talk to that team about the concerns they have. Then the officers can go back and decide on how best to deal with them.”

Originally the number of PCSOs in Norfolk was to have risen to 138 by March 2007 with a long term final target of 280 by March 2008. Nationally, the target was 12,000 PCSOs by March 2007 and 24,000 by March 2008.

Now the Government is providing the funding to have 138 PCSOs recruited by the end of this year and 189 by April 2007, at which stage all neighbourhoods should have at least one member in place by April.

The acceleration of the plan also means that 10 and not five sergeants will be needed in 2006/07 with the remainder - six posts - required the following year.

Norfolk Constabulary will receive an extra £1.09 million on top of the original grant of £1.05 million, all of which is ring-fenced to support the recruitment of PCSOs.

Mrs Howlett also welcomed the extra funding for the recruitment of PCSOs, but said that forces needed a reassurance from Government that resources would still be there in future years.

In terms of their geographic boundaries, most 'neighbourhoods' have yet to be drawn up, although the first community team in the county, covering Yarmouth town centre and the deprived Middlegate and Barrack estates, has been running for six weeks.

Yesterday Sgt Nick Cheshire led a street briefing in the town centre, taking officers out of police station briefing rooms and encouraging the public to listen in and tell officers about their own problems.

Sgt Cheshire said: “We've had a really positive response so far. Already people have come up to us and told us about drugs problems on their streets, allowing us to launch raids.

“It's about building up trust with a community, introducing new confidence and helping people to reclaim the streets. And so far response has been fantastic.”

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