We need ‘visible’ police presence

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An angry councillor delivered a passionate condemnation of a decision by Sussex Police to change how and where PCSOs work.

At Wednesday’s Heathfield parish assembly, Cllr Roger Thomas (Heathfield Parish and Wealden District) said he felt Sussex Police Commissioner Katie Bourne should have resisted changes which, he believes, will see crime rise. He said: “PCSOs are a visible police presence communities need. They have proved good value and done a particularly good job. Police HQ talks about prevention being a key factor in reducing crime. PCSOs keep an eye on what people are doing and surely that’s the vocational part of the task.”

He went on: “I ask, whatever your political view, when you vote in the election, consider all candidates’ backgrounds and see who you feel has the personal qualities to do a good job.”

A police spokesman explained: “Operational matters, including the deployment and role of PCSOs, are the responsibility of the Chief Constable. Priorities are set in accordance with the available budget which is the responsibility of the Police and Crime Commissioner.”

County councillor Rupert Simmons said: “We saw Heathfield police station re-open and excellent neighbourhood policing continue. We are told Wealden is a low crime area. This is because PCSOs are visible on the streets. We used to suffer from drug problems, vandalism and thefts and I fear it won’t be long before gangs re-assemble. Heathfield is seen as an outpost from Hailsham. There is no investment into neighbourhood policing now.” PCSOs will now be based in Hailsham and must re-apply for their jobs.

Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor who oversees the new policing model said: “We aim to improve the service which operates with new demands against a shrinking budget. Across Sussex from July 4 PCSOs will be deployed when and where there’s a need. Communities will have PCSOs with enhanced skills and powers forming part of a wider prevention team. They’ll focus on the vulnerable and tackle local concerns rather than randomly patrol, known to have little impact on crime. The community will have a team to contact by mobile phone or email rather than an individually named PCSO, who will use police premises throughout Sussex ensuring they work close to where issues are.”

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