UNISON warning that cuts to PCSO numbers could lead to rise in crime.
More than 3,500 front line police community support officer (PCSO) jobs in England have gone since the start of the coalition, despite ministers’ commitment to protect front line policing, according to a UNISON report.
The report, Trouble in the Neighbourhood, shows there has been an overall 22% reduction in the number of police community support officers inEngland with nine police forces having cut more than 20% of their PCSOs.
This includes a 49% reduction in the Metropolitan police, a loss of 2,280 PCSOs in the capital, almost two thirds of the overall cut, 31% in Merseyside and 28% in Essex.*
Only five police forces out of the 39 in England have maintained or increased their number of PCSOs. **
The report also shows that 60% of UNISON members working as PCSOs had seen cuts in staff or resources in their police force. ***
As well as a reduction in the number of PCSOs, cuts in supporting roles also impact on front line policing as PCSOs often find themselves covering for these roles and spending less time out in the community.
UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said:
“Neighbourhood policing is dying on the beat. What took years to build up is being lost because of reckless Government cuts.
“PCSOs are under growing pressure. They tell us how they have to cover larger beats and more of them have to work alone, often leading them to feel vulnerable.
“PSCOs play a key role in intelligence gathering, tackling minor crimes and anti social behavior. They are a reassuring and deterring visible presence in our streets and without them crime is likely to rise.
“The Government’s claims that front line policing would be protected are in tatters. The cuts on neighbourhood teams are putting the public safety into jeopardy. That is why we are calling on the Government to fund and maintainneighbourhood policing teams at their 2010 level.
“Because the fall in the number of police community support officers will impact on how safe people are, we also want HMIC to investigate neighbourhood policing to see how the cuts have affected the quality of theservice.”
Comments from PCSOs:
“On my own Safer Community Team, numbers have been cut from 9 to 2; an 80% cut that makes it impossible to even staff our five shift system. All of the work we have done over the last decade is unravelling and we are powerless to stop it. Morale is at rock bottom.”
“We now have less staff and higher expectations from the public that cannot be met.”
“At times there are very few officers on the street due to cuts. Struggle to deal with all the jobs that get called in.”
“Crime prevention officers and practical resources have gone. Posts are not being filled when they become available”
“We no longer work as a team and are left to work alone on a late evening… there is no back up close by if anything should go wrong, so this leaves the PCSO vulnerable.”
“Drastic reduction in vehicles which doesn’t directly impact on PCSOs, but means that warranted officers are further away should we require support. Larger neighbourhoods mean that PCSOs have to travel further on foot and operate more often as a solo foot patrol.”
In contrast to England, there has been a 57% rise in the number of PCSOs in Wales, with an extra 409 posts created, with dedicated funding from the Welsh Government.
UNISON Press office 0207 121 5255 or Pressoffice2@UNISON.co.uk
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Notes to Editors
* PCSO cuts have been 20% or higher in the following nine police forces:
City of London: -71.15%
Met Police: -49.09%
** 87 PCSO jobs were created in England since March 2010.
1 in Wiltshire
3 in Leicestershire
24 in Nottinghamshire
59 in Devon and Cornwall
*** UNISON represents around 6,000 PCSOs in England and Wales. 1,900 of them responded to the online survey – a response rate of almost 30%