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Crime Commissioner hails PCSOs in neighbourhood policing role

THE RE-ELECTED Police and Crime Commissioner says PCSOs are helping to maintain visibility and neighbourhood policing in North Wales after UK and Welsh Government funding cuts.

Welsh Labour’s Andy Dunbobbin was re-elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for the next four years earlier this month and claimed PCSOs played a vital part bolstering community policing.

In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Dunbobbin claimed the numbers of police officers in the region had increased by at least 100 during his tenure from around 1,600 to around 1,700.

He also claimed North Wales is a safe place with crime down 13.5%.

“There are 1,700 officers in North Wales Police,” said Mr Dunbobbin.

“There are civilian posts as well within North Wales Police. We have 3,300 police officers and staff. What I would say is we are at pre-austerity levels. I think we were at around 1,600 police officers when I took over, so numbers have increased.

“But policing and times have changed as well, and because of police forces absorbing that cost, what happens is a lot of officers were removed from neighbourhood policing teams into response because of that demand.

“So instead of all the neighbourhood policing work that was taking place, all that preventative type of work, where you would see more police officers in our community, what happened, to try and compete with the demands that were placed upon police forces and targets set by the Home Office, the officers had to go into response policing, a more reactive type of policing.”

When asked how many “bobbies were on the beat” in North Wales, Mr Dunbobbin said he didn’t have that level of detail.

But the commissioner said he had been able to find funding and maintain 133 of North Wales Police’s 198 PCSOs, a role he says is vital in providing community policing, despite Welsh Government funding cuts last year.

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“Welsh Government cut the funding (for PCSOs) because of their challenges,” he said.

“But I know how important the PCSOs are to policing, especially regarding neighbourhood policing, to try and improve visibility. I didn’t want that being reduced because I know how important it is for people to have that policing presence, so save having to lose PCSO numbers, I maintained that level,” he said.

“In total we’ve 198 PCSOs. That’s more than when I started. PCSOs have got a really important part to play in building trust and confidence in our communities. We do a lot with community groups, attending fetes, and open days, things like that. They can really be that point of contact in our communities, so I think they have a really important part to play.

“I know some people don’t really see much of a value in that, but it is to bring in that community policing aspect of things to improve that engagement, and they do contribute to that.”

He added, “The reduction of crime is down 13.5% over last year. I think we are always going to need more police officers, but we are having to be accountable to the Home Office. So we are stuck in a way with the amount (of police officers) we can have. It is a bit easier with PCSO numbers because that’s within my remit as Police and Crime Commissioner, but with a lot of things, we are having to stick with what the Home Office are instructing us to do.

“I think North Wales is a safe place. I’m always wanting to make things better for people. That’s the reason I went for re-election again.

But we are not going to be complacent at all in improving engagement and providing what our community needs and strengthening that engagement.”