The cut last year in the number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) is being blamed for an increase in youth crime experienced by larger towns in Wealden.
The fear was expressed by district councillors when they met Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne.
Mrs Bourne told Wealden council’s overview and scrutiny committee that the number of PCSOs had been reduced to 196 throughout the county, due to financial constraints.
She explained that the roles and responsibilities of these officers had not been reviewed since they were introduced and, as part of the new local policing programme, efficiencies had been made.
Councillors were advised that the new model had been designed to meet 21st Century needs, including making more use of modern technology, and gave the PCSOs more responsibility – which deployed them in different ways across the county to ensure maximised productivity and effectiveness.
Mrs Bourne acknowledged that the publicity regarding the changes to the role of the PCSOs could have been improved.
She was told there had been a reduction in public confidence since the decrease in the number of PCSOs in the community.
Several members stated that their local PCSO had been well known in the area, with valuable local knowledge and many had attended the local parish/town council meetings on a regular basis
Mrs Bourne explained that the PCSOs were no longer allocated to a specific area; but all worked in the community as one team, deployed wherever they were required within the county.
She said that although the PCSOs no longer had the capacity to attend all the parish and town council meetings, if important issues were being considered then the council clerk should make contact.
She mentioned that Inspector Tony Wakefield held surgeries for councillors to discuss any issues in their wards and she urged the committee to advise parish and town clerks to get in touch with him
It was mentioned that in previous years parishes had the opportunity to fund PCSOs themselves; however this initiative had been withdrawn by the police
Mrs Bourne explained that it had been an operational decision to discontinue parish council funding PCSOs because of the significant changes to their roles and responsibilities, as well as reforms to working practices.
*At last year’s annual meeting of the Wealden District Assoication of Local Councils it was said councillors felt the police no longer seem to care about rural communities
*Concern was shown last year at changes to the role of PCSOs at the Sussex Police and Crime Panel.