Crowborough will lose dedicated PCSO in radical shake-up of local policing

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Today Sussex Police have announced the start of a consultation with Police Community Support Officers about their role within a new model of local policing.

White-Ribbon
(From left to Right) PCSOs Hannah Williams, Chris Harrison and Marion Keeton in Waitrose last year for White Ribbon Day

In October, the force announced that the number of PCSOs might have to reduce by about 30% from 325 to 228 over the next three years.

For many years Crowborough Town Council have paid for a dedicated PCSO for the town from its portion of the Council Tax.   At a meeting last month, Councillors on the Environment Committee received a written report from Sergeant Mike Keeler, who leads the neighbourhood policing teams in the local area.  He explained the number of PCSOs has recently been reduced and he now supervises eight PCSOs covering Rotherfield, Hartfield, Forest Row, Crowborough, Frant and Withyham.  Crowborough Town and Withyham currently share PCSOs Marion Keeton and Paula Gatward and Crowborough also has the additional Town Council-funded PCSO, Chris Harrison.

As part of changes, town and parish council in Sussex will no longer be able to fund their own PCSO after April 2016.   Parishes are being encouraged to consider providing community wardens.

Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith said:

The design is part of a broader need to transform neighbourhood and local policing, making the role more responsive, with greater responsibility and capability to solve local problems.

We can not however shy away from the fact that there are fewer PCSOs in the new model.

The new PCSO role is proposed as part of changes to Neighbourhood Policing, which will ensure that local police services can be made more effective.  It is proposed that PSCOs:

  • be equipped with a range of skills to enable them to resolve problems and prevent crime and disorder, alongside partners.
  • have additional powers to enter certain licensed premises and enforce certain licensing offences, in order to address the selling of alcohol to those under age, street drinkers and people who are drunk.
  • be issued with body worn cameras and have enhanced staff safety training.
  • provide a tailored approach to the specific needs of communities and neighbourhoods.

Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, has acknowledged proposals to give PCSOs new skills to help support Sussex’s 21st century policing model and deal with evolving criminal and terrorist threats:

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner
Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner

In a post-Paris world with the threat level in the UK remaining at severe, now is the right time to review PCSO’s roles and ask if they have the right skills to keep our communities safe.

The model of neighbourhood policing and the roles of PCSOs has been unchanged for more than a decade.  The consultation is an opportunity to revise PCSO skills and ensure they are equipped to support investigations and keep our communities safe.

The true impact of the Spending Review will be revealed later this week when the Police Grant is confirmed.

At the moment, it appears to give Sussex police some flexibility in how the Local Policing Programme is implemented over the next four years.

Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner

Community Wardens

A new scheme being developed by the Surrey & Sussex Association of Local Councils to test out the benefits of engaging wardens to support community development and engagement in their local areas.  A pilot programme will launch in early 2016, supported by the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, who is inviting applications from local councils to apply for part-funding to enable the recruitment of locally employed community wardens.  The Commissioner is looking to fund up to five pilot appointments (providing up to 50% of funding for the first year and up to 25% for the second year).

A spokesperson for the Commisioner said:

I should emphasise that community wardens are not a substitute for or equivalent to PCSOs. They are part of a wider solution to dealing with low level community issues, determined by the local Parishes and Boroughs – not the police.

Spokesperson for the PCC

Wardens would be provide another uniformed presence on the streets and could make people feel safer, deter crime, tackle anti-social behaviour and issue fixed penalty notices for litter and dog fouling.

However without legal changes they would not be able to issue parking tickets for parking on yellow lines or near pedestrian crossings.  Wealden is one if very few districts where on-street parking enforcement is still the responsibility of the Police.  The Department for Transport have urged the remaining Councils to decriminalise parking enforcement, as it will save police time and resources.

Crime Stats

You can view local information by neighbourhood – look at recent crime statistics & see the status of investigations, view policing priorities, and see who is in the local policing team:

PCSO Chris Harrison holds a regular police surgery on the last Thursday of every month at the Town Hall in Crowborough.

You might be interested in reading the article about Paws on Watch: Canine Crimefighters.

Have Your Say:

Should PCSOs play a more valuable role in policing our streets?  Is parking really a policing matter?  Do you think it is a good idea to appoint Wardens – what would you like them to focus on?

Add you comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.

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