PCSOs set nationwide example

A Norfolk pilot scheme which has seen a fall in street crime and anti-social behaviour was hailed by a government minister today as an example of how it should work when rolled out across the country by 2008.

A Norfolk pilot scheme which has seen a fall in street crime and anti-social behaviour was hailed by a government minister today as an example of how it should work when rolled out across the country by 2008.

Since the new policing teams, made up of a police sergeant and police community support officers (PCSOs), were introduced in Yarmouth last June, crime has fallen by 5pc, with robbery down 38pc.

On a visit to Cobholm to see the improvements that had been made, police minister Vernon Coaker heard from local residents that the streets were safer and cleaner, with litter, graffiti, under-age drinking, parking offences and the presence of gangs of intimidating youngsters all down.

Mr Coaker said the reason the Safer Neighbourhood Teams worked so well was that it was done in partnership with residents which helped build up trust and a sense of community.

He said: “This is policing being done with people, not to people. You get a connection between the police and residents this way.

“It means police officers are closer to the community and will generate local information and increased intelligence to allow the police to operate more effectively.”

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One of the biggest successes in Cobham was dealing with congestion which had previously clogged up the streets, said Abby Holton, one of 52 PCSOs in nine teams in the town.

But she said they did not have the power to issue parking tickets and asked Mr Coaker whether there were plans to increase their powers.

Mr Coaker said he would raise the issue with the home office but said many of the PCSOs' powers were at the discretion of regional police chiefs.

PCSOs at Yarmouth were allowed to retain people for 30 minutes, for example - a power not held by other forces, but deemed necessary here, he said.

Mr Wright added: “PCSOs fulfil a specific role. We don't want to give them similar powers as the police or traffic wardens. We do not want them to become policing on the cheap.”