Thursday, 30 August 2007

OXFORD: We want police on the beat

We want police on the beat

We can no doubt expect a vigorous defence from ministers of the concept of having Police Community Support Officers.

We are constantly told that they are not a substitute but rather an accessory for the police.

They are there to identify problems, provide reassurance to the communities in which they work, act as the eyes and ears of the police and gather intelligence.

The police have produced a lengthy list of work the PCSOs have done in parts of Oxfordshire.

But the public is right to question whether they are really worth the money.

In Oxfordshire, we have 121 PCSOs on the beat, with a further 21 in training, costing a total of £3m a year.

But they have yet to solve a single crime.

The best that can be said is that they BELIEVE they have helped bring down low-level antisocial behaviour and they BELIEVE that information handed to officers has led to arrests.

The hard-pressed council taxpayer is forking out a huge sum every year for the privilege of seeing them walk around the streets.

With gun crime rampant in some parts of the country, the Government's promise to be tough on crime is beginning to wear thin.

The public wants a proper police force which responds to its needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

PCSOs will never be able to provide such a service.

The attraction of having an army of PCSOs is obvious - they are cheaper to train and earn less than a police officer.

But while that might satisfy the bean counters in Whitehall, the public will continue to have serious reservations.

There is no doubt in our minds that the Government is tackling law and order on the cheap and selling us short.

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