Cuts to neighbourhood policing could be devastating

Shelly Berry writes about the importance of community policing

Police officer

A neighbourhood police officer. Credit: Met Police

My day job is working for a local authority. Not this one, I hasten to add before I get a deluge of complaints, but one in central London, working with partners to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

Figures recently published by the government would suggest that crime is falling. While I like to believe this is a reflection of the work we are doing, I read these statistics with a level of scepticism.

I work closely with a neighbourhood policing team and, since the cuts to the Metropolitan Police imposed since 2010, it has been a real struggle.

When I started this job nearly five years ago I had a team of seven or eight people to turn to when I needed help patrolling areas hit by anti-social behaviour, taking enforcement action against those causing harm, or someone to join me on a visit to those involved in crime not only to warn them they are on the radar but help turn them away from that lifestyle.

Now there is only two Dedicated Ward Officers (DWOs); one Police Constable (PC) and one Police Community Support Officer (PCSO).

While the government argues we have the same number of officers in neighbourhood policing teams, most are investigating crimes rather than going out on patrols. My PC is fantastic, but he often gets caught up with admin too, leaving the patrolling and role of ‘eyes and ears’ to our PCSO, a man who had walked the streets of our ‘manor’ for longer than some of our drug dealers have been out of nappies.

Not only does he know the names of all the people causing harm to the community, he can recognise them a mile off, which the PC happily admits has put more criminals in prison than the rest of the team put together.

And, guess what? In the face of even more cuts by central government, the Met Police is now seriously considering getting rid of him, along with all other PCSOs.

My job has taught me how valuable PCSOs are and why, with a dwindling police presence on the streets and cuts to local authority services, their value has multiplied several times over.

Without them, I wouldn’t know whose mum needs support, which young person needs a mentor, where drug users are leaving needles, and when I need patrols to target areas experiencing violent crime.

No-one else has that knowledge and, if the PCSOs go, I’m not sure who will be able to bridge the gap. To be frank, I anticipate the results could be devastating – for the residents I serve and my neighbours here in Waltham Forest.

You can sign the petition to save neighbourhood policing in London by visiting www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-neighbourhood-policing-in-london