Police bosses have been accused of asking people to pay more for less as it was revealed residents in quieter neighbourhoods could find their police patrols more and more often being carried out by community support officers.
The national PEEL report into police effectiveness, released last week, revealed Lancashire Police plans to concentrate police officers on the most difficult neighbourhoods, leaving PCSOs to carry out patrols in less at risk communities
In the section of the report dealing with threat or risk of harm, it is stated PCSOs will increasingly be used in place of a PC.
The report states: “In those areas where there is less demand on the constabulary there will be fewer foot patrols by police officers and responsibilty for a local neighbourhood will be allocated to a PCSO.”
The report continues: “The constabulary expects in the future, as more police officers are deployed increasingly in the neighbourhoods where demand is highest. PCSOs will take on a greater role in neighborhoods.
“This will mean PCSOs providing the visible policing presence in most communities and in taking the lead to address local crime and anti-social behaviour.”
The report makes clear a ‘greater onus’ will be placed on PCSOs.
But the idea has not gone down well in some areas of the Fylde coast.
Coun Mark Bamforth, who represents St John’s ward in Lytham, is concerned by the diminishing number of officers on the streets.
He said: “I don’t think I’ve seen a bobby on the beat for three years.
“I remember some time ago the MP complaining there were only four police officers in the town.
“They say there are not enough police.
“I think we justify a permanent officer but I suspect we are the kind of community they are thinking about here.
“A police officer on the beat is a deterrent.
“I don’t think a PCSO, because they don’t have the same powers, has the same presence.
“We have a very good PCSO but if you think of some of the major things which have happened here, the Leonard Dews raid, Santander, Co-op Travel, we need a police officer.
“People might be paying more in council tax here than elsewhere but they are getting less.
“We are subsidising the policing of other towns.”
Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council said: “We have seen fewer and fewer officers on patrol in recent years, whether that is PCSOs or warranted officers.
“I understand the different needs but I know in Wyre, where we have a more elderly population, there is also the need for the reassurance an officer on patrol brings.
“People need to know that if there is a problem there is someone there to deal with it.”
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said the deployment of warranted officers and PCSOs was an operational decision.
Assistant chief constable Mark Bates said Lancashire Police would always target resources to where they were most needed and backed PCSOs to deliver front line policing where they were deployed.
He said:"Lancashire Constabulary has been nationally recognised as a top performing police force that not only meets the needs of its local communities but also has the ability to make best use of its resources.
"There is context within policing the red rose county in that austerity has created fewer staff to deal with an ever increasing level of complex and historical crime in addition to the positive role the Constabulary plays in being an active part of partnerships working to reduce increasing levels of vulnerability.
"To do this the Constabulary uses a risk and threat approach to deploying its resources and this naturally means that some of its work focuses on high population areas with higher levels of crime and vulnerability.
"That said the Constabulary also prides itself on keeping its resources on the frontline to serve communities to the best of its ability.
"There is a long tradition within the local policing of very effective community engagement and problem solving and this is set to continue in the future. All of the assets of the Constabulary, police officers, police staff, PCSOs and volunteers are all a part of that ‘one team’ joint approach to delivering high quality policing to all."