The vast majority of us will know that ‘neighbourhood policing’ is these days no more than a soundbite, used when appropriate to provide a reassuring image of a bobby on the beat.
In the real world a visible presence on your street corner disappeared long ago.
Today we report that the West Yorkshire police commissioner is set to slash 73% of his funding for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs.)
As the force funds 80 per cent of the city’s cohort, the council is now faced with finding an additional £1.5m a year to fund them - or slash the numbers by more than half.
Let’s ask a simple question: if you do happen to see see a uniformed walking along your street today - a reassuring sight to all of us, certainly, - what are the odds on it being a police officer? Likely answer? Low. Very low indeed, in fact.
They began as much laughed-at ‘hobby bobbies’ but now the Police Community Support Officer is as firmly placed within the public’s consciousness as to be regarded as a critical service. Indeed, a service we cannot afford to be without.
The Home Office counters this with the argument that it is not many officers are deployedin total, but how they are deployed per se. It is hard to be sympathetic with this do more with less’ mantra.
Everyone knows people can work smarter and be more efficient, however a point is always reached when the same level of service simply cannot be delivered no matter how clever you are being with the resources - people - at your disposal.
It isn’t that long ago that we asked readers through our ‘Voice of Leeds’ survey what kind of city you wanted Leeds to be. Safe and as crime free as possible was a key response.
The first priority of the police should be crime prevention. Once a crime has been committed it is too late for the victim.
Visible policing, providing a reassuring presence and getting to know the ins and outs of a community should be the first job of our police service.
If PCSO numbers do fall then the public will take a lot of convincing that it’s in their own interests. Because they’d much rather see more rank and file police officers on the streets, connecting and protecting them. Very much in sight, very much in mind.
Sadly we suspect that’s a mere pipe dream.