Police chief promises to “surge” officers into local communities after scrapping PCSOs
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Norfolk's chief constable has vowed to 'surge' officers into local communities as a result of his decision to scrap PCSOs.
In October last year, Simon Bailey announced he would abolish the role of police community support officer, putting 150 of them at risk of redundancy.
As part of a new policing model called Norfolk 2020, Mr Bailey said he would reinvest in the front line by recruiting officers with full warranted powers.
Nine months into the model going live, Mr Bailey said it has 'come to fruition'.
He has pledged to 'surge' the newly recruited officers into local communities to act on their concerns - but has warned council tax will have to rise yet again to provide more officers on the streets.
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Yesterday safer neighbourhood teams across Norwich joined forces as 15 beat managers patrolled areas where they had received local intelligence.
It resulted in 11 arrests, drugs seized and a cannabis factory uncovered.
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Mr Bailey said he could now draw on 104 beat managers in communities across Norfolk, led by 14 sergeants.
'Through that investment in police officers in neighbourhoods, there is an ability for us to be able to deal with our communities' problems in a way we simply weren't able to before,' he said.
'I now have the ability to surge into our towns and the city large numbers of officers to go in and address issues such as anti-social behaviour, serious organised crime or drug dealing, and provide a constant presence.'
Two Operation Moonshot teams are now active after a trial in the west of the county, with the Moonshot City team active in Norwich since November 17.
The mobile unit focuses on disrupting criminal activity as they enter or leave the county by road, and over the course of 24 shifts Moonshot City has made 55 arrests and seized 41 vehicles.
Mr Bailey announced he will be rolling out the Moonshot teams even further by establishing a team to operate in the east of the county.
He added after an 'intensive week' of activity in October focusing on Class A drug dealing, 33 arrests were made in Norfolk.
It was a sixth of the 200 arrests made nationally as part of the campaign.
'What is now happening is those communities living in deprived areas are now phoning and giving us intelligence, and we are now able to respond with officer numbers,' said Mr Bailey.
'They are having a very positive effect, which in turn encourages more intelligence.'
Mr Bailey said officers will flood into communities for days of action 'half a dozen times a month' force-wide.
'These officers have warranted powers and are able to do much more than police community support officers,' he said. 'Those are the cold hard facts.'
After £250,000 worth of cannabis seizures around Norwich this week, Mr Bailey insisted they are remain focused on 'high end harm'.
'We are still targeting serious organised crime with dedicated tactical teams,' he said.
'We no longer have any high risk county lines operating in Norfolk, and only one medium risk line.'
Norfolk Police say they are currently aware of 26 county lines operating in the county, down from 36 before the launch of Operation Gravity in November 2016.
More than 800 arrests have been made to date in connection with Class A drug dealing through county lines.
The campaign has only been possible through community intelligence, Mr Bailey added. He has again urged people to contact police if they have any information about crime in their area.
The promise is officers will be available and able to respond.
'We can only deal with what we are told about,' added Mr Bailey. 'The community has responded really well to Gravity and we are able to demonstrate results.
'These officers are now able to provide a reassurance and proactive capability.
'We can surge these numbers into Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn, North Norfolk and Broadland. 'We will be able to respond to our communities needs because they see us being able to deal with their problems.'
Anyone with any information about crime in their area should contact Norfolk Police on non-emergency number 101, or 999 for a crime in progress.
Alternatively, information can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
In 2017 Norfolk became the only force in the country to announce the role of PCSOs would be scrapped.
Police community support officers (PCSOs) have been a staple of every police force's neighbourhood policing teams every since they were introduced with Labour's Police Reform Act 2002.
But in one of the biggest shake ups to the force structure in decades, Mr Bailey argued they now cost as much as a constable.
He believed money was best spent on officers with full powers of arrest.
In pursuit of £10m of savings in two years, he announced 150 roles would be made redundant, replaced with 81 new police officers with 64 PCs, 16 sergeants and a new chief inspector.
59 of the PCSOs faced with redundancy chose to become full police constables, and 97 new staff were hired.
Council tax rise?
A 5.5pc rise in the police precept of council tax last year allowed a further 17 police officers and six staff to be hired.
But as part of a £300m funding announcement for 2019/20, which could see Norfolk receive up to £11.2m, the government has said commissioners will be able to hike it again, by up to £24 for a Band D property.
Simon Bailey said he will be lobbying for the full rise.
'We currently have 1511 officers, and I have got to have conversations with the commissioner around raising the precept,' he said. 'I am going to be encouraging him to raise it the full amount because I have to invest in our visible presence.
'In every engagement meeting the message from the community is 'we simply do not see enough of you'.'
Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk Lorne Green has challenged Mr Bailey to make a case for the extra funding.
'I want him to demonstrate to me he has exhausted every possibility to extract resources through efficiencies first and see where that leaves us,' he said.
New phone line
Calls into the Norfolk Police contact and control room (CCR) are being prioritised as part of the Norfolk 2020 model.
Simon Bailey said there is now a mentoring system in place for call handlers, and said average times to answer calls were improving.
'One of the developments has been a new telephony system,' he said. 'Over the last 24 hours we had 271 999 calls answered in an average of four seconds.
'We had 555 101 calls with a 12pc abandonment rate, and an average time to answer of two minutes 41 seconds.'
He added response times will vary depending on the nature of the call, with the THRIVE risk assessment system, introduced in 2015, putting a focus on prioritising callers most at risk.
'If you are the victim of domestic abuse you will have your call answered very quickly,' said Mr Bailey. 'If it is an administrative issue you may have to wait a lot longer, as we are prioritising vulnerability.'