'PCSOs will be kept on the streets'

WEST Yorkshire's Chief Constable has said a call for Calderdale PCSOs to be put behind desks as part of a pilot would be "the last thing in the world" he would do.

Sir Norman Bettison was responding to a request from Calderdale's Conservative candidate Philip Allott about police reforms if they were elected.

In a letter to Sir Norman he said: "This includes reducing paperwork and changing the role of PCSOs to put them in a more administrative role to increase the number of hours (currently around just one hour per shift) that each officer spends on patrol duties.

"I am writing to ask whether you would be willing to let Calderdale police implement this policy as a testing ground?

"Halifax suffers a higher than expected level of crime and putting more officers on the streets would help to reassure a nervous public and help reduce what feels like a crime epidemic."

Mr Allott said PCSOs had limited powers and it would be better to have more police officers on the streets for longer.

But Sir Norman said PCSOs played an essential role in providing a visible, accessible street presence while regular officers investigated, arrested and produced court files.

He said: "PCSOs sometimes get a raw deal in the press because they do not have all the powers of a police officer. But that is the whole point, they do not exercise the powers that take them away from the streets in the way that police officers do.

"We have pledged that 80 per cent of the time these officers will be on foot patrol in your neighbourhood.

"With the positive feedback about this uniformed presence, the last thing in the world that I intend to do is take those men and women in uniform off the streets and put them behind a desk."

And Sir Norman rubbished Mr Allot's claim that police officers spend only an hour a day on patrol, saying they "spent significantly more hours than that".

Calderdale Superintendent Stan Bates said any claim that crime had increased was wrong.

Figures show there were 130 fewer victims of crime in Halifax town centre between April 2008 and January this year compared with the same period last time.

Supt Bates said PCSOs have powers to deal with minor offences, support front-line officers, conduct house-to-house inquiries, guard crime scenes and provide advice and reassurance to communities.

He said: "Taking them off the streets would undermine public confidence. What the public want to see is more officers in uniform out on patrol."

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