PROPOSALS to take 336 police community support officers (PSCOs) off the streets by 2020 have been put forward by West Midlands Police (WMP) in a bid to save £130million.
Chief Superintendent Alex Murray, from Solihull, said if the plans were approved then it would be a big challenge for the force and the communities they served in the borough.
The proposals are to reduced the number from 535 to 349 over the next 12 months. The current number of PCSOs is 674 but there are currently 139 empty posts.
It all come after the force’s wholesale review of local policing which looks at PCSOs in terms of their role, numbers and deployment for the first time since their inception.
Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said more than 80 per cent of operating costs came from pay budgets at WMP and there was no other way with the cuts they faced when they had already closed front desks and begun to decided on closing police buildings.
Ch Supt Murray added: “No police leader would want to do this and the decision to put forward these proposals has not been taken lightly.
“We have invested in doing things differently so the service we offer is still effective, focused on priorities and looks at solving problems in a smart way.”
Over the last five years WMP has been making savings wherever possible. This included plans to close police buildings in Shirley and Balsall Common.
Ch Supt Murray added in Solihull they had spent the last year aligning some of their teams with Council officers and Solihull Community Housing staff as they had found, more often than not, they were tackling the same problems and working with similar people and places, but in isolation of each other.
“The closer partnership working that has been fostered over the last 12 months means we should become more effective in making Solihull safer,” he said.
WMP will also be investing in IT and changes to the way it works to become more effective so less time is needed to be spent sitting at a computer in a station.
“These proposed changes will naturally have an effect in the neighbourhoods we live in but our team here in Solihull is committed to maintaining the safety and prosperity of the borough, keeping crime down,” Ch Supt Murray said.
“I know statistics are not popular but I am satisfied through the analysis of reported and unreported crime Solihull is the safest it has ever been.”
He added they were also encouraging more residents to adopt crime prevention advice and to start a neighbourhood watch in their area or consider starting street associations where people can look out for each other.
“It’s an old phrase but one that is true – communities beat crime,” he said.