Following last week’s furious outbursts at Heathfield’s parish assembly, Crowborough has now given the thumbs down to drastic cuts to community policing in Sussex.
Most people attending last week’s annual town conference backed a vote of no confidence in the county’s police, Chief Constable Giles York and Sussex Police and Crime commissioner Katy Bourne. The vote will now be passed onto the the Commissioner’s office as she aims to be re-elected.
Like Heathfield and Uckfield, Crowborough will shortly have no ‘bobbies on the beat.’ Instead PCSOs, who must all re-apply for their own jobs under new contractual arrangements from this July, will be based in Hailsham or other major towns and assigned to areas where problems are being reported.
Local people fear losing the comfort factor of their familiar PCSOs and say it is their visible presence which has kept the streets and public places safe.
Chantal Wilson from Crowborough Community Association was in the chair at a Crowborough policing meeting with Katie Bourne on March 22. She explained PCSOs got to know the area they worked in and the people they worked with. She said: “People always felt they could trust the police they knew and they also got to know the area - its potential trouble spots. They provided a comforting visible sign that people are safe and a deterrent to anti-social behaviour.”
She is concerned that the actual savings are relatively minor in terms of the overall budget. “I think most people felt PCSOs represented good value for money.”
Her views echoed those of East Sussex County Councillor Rupert Simmons who confirmed: “We might have had our doubts beforehand but there is no question that PCSOs have proved very good value and do a particularly good job. Successful policing is all about prevention and PCSOs keep an eye on people who are doing things.”
While Chantal Wilson did not react to the ‘no confidence’ vote she expressed her own views. “I think most people feel the likely cost of reactive policing is not going to be worth it.”
Meanwhile Sussex Police say PCSOs will ‘focus on the vulnerable and tackle local concerns rather than randomly patrol.’ People will have a team to contact by mobile phone or email.
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