Lincolnshire Police hail crime reductions after PCSO cuts but councillors fear there is a lack of bobbies on the beat
Police chiefs say their revamped ‘Neighbourhood Policing model’ has been a success in cutting crime - but concerns remain that there are not enough bobbies on the beat across the county.
Cuts were made to police community support officers last year – with numbers dropping from 91 to 50 to address financial pressures – and the decision left some towns with no PCSOs at all.
Instead, the new approach involves dedicated community beat managers (CBMs), sergeants, and inspectors for each area and bosses reckon they can already prove it has worked.
In the last 18 months, 13 more beat managers were recruited and police say that December statistics show notable drops in recorded crimes. Figures show reductions in robbery against the person (-13%), residential burglary (-26.9%), and public order offences (-14.9%).
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Chiefs said more work is needed to build on this – promising proactive crime prevention, community engagement, and targeted interventions in areas with elevated risks or substantial harm.
Chief Superintendent Kate Anderson said: "This new model is about truly focusing on our communities, providing the best possible service within our funding allocation."
“Lincolnshire remains one of the safest places in the county to live, work, and visit, and we are committed to keeping it that way.
“Our neighbourhood teams are a crucial part of Lincolnshire Police and do so much work in the communities we serve.
“We will focus on keeping people safe, preventing anti-social behaviour, engaging with our hard-to-reach groups and listening to your concerns.”
Neighbourhood teams collaborate with response, roads policing unit, rural crime action team, and investigation teams – but the move to this new approach drew criticism from councils when it was announced.
Lincolnshire Police still needs to make £3 million annual savings, despite a small uplift in funding.
Councillors remain concerned and sceptical about the decrease in numbers.
South Kesteven District councillor Philip Dilks (Ind) sits on the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Panel, and following the announcement last year, tried to get the district and Lincolnshire County Council to give financial support towards retaining some PCSOs.
“I’m really, really concerned about it. I’ve had lots of people contact me with incidents that have just not been sorted as they would have been by PCSOs,” he said.
“PCSOs are really good value for money and are real community people who form a relationship with the local community and do a really good job.”
He acknowledged new officers had been hired in specialised teams such as child protection, sexual exploitation and internet fraud but said they weren’t the same as “uniforms on the street”.
He said getting rid of PCSOs to pay for new teams was “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
He said Deeping St James Parish Council had gone as far as to offer to pay for a PCSO in their area but were told there were no plans to move forward that way.
“I’m really disappointed. I put a lot of value in PCSOs; I think they do a fantastic job.”
Coun Marianne Overton, from the Lincolnshire Independents group, said there remained a number of questions about the statistics and how they compared with previous years.
The Navenby and Brant Broughton councillor and fellow representatives say there needs to be a baseline level of policing in all areas.
She said that even if statistics around certain crimes were improved, they continued to be worried about the level of response and support in rural areas because of the concentration that has to happen due to short staffing.
“If police go to where the most commotion is, they risk leaving rural areas with nothing,” she said.
“What we were bothered about is getting any response in rural areas because there is a risk that these officers chase targets and therefore focus in the cities, leaving rural areas unprotected.”
“We had anti-social behaviour in one of our villages and there was no PCSO. They were called and nobody came.”
She worried that police were playing ‘whack-a-mole’ with some crimes as offenders moved into the easier crimes to commit in response to focused responses.
Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones noted the rise in reports of shoplifting - putting it down to attempts by police to encourage businesses to report the crime when it happened.
“We will see those reports go up much higher before they come down,” he said, noting that statistics would better show where to allocate resources.
He said he respected the chief constable’s operational choices, noting that money had been put into improving 101 services, putting more people into protecting vulnerable residents and more officers into neighbourhood policing units.
However, he confirmed he had asked the National College of Policing to undertake a piece of research into the Neighbourhood Policing Model including how assets from cars to buildings and officers were used across Lincolnshire.
“They will report back to us, and I will publish it publicly, what’s working and what we can do better and that will give the new Chief Constable a proper independent assessment of what’s been going on and the basis for any decisions around further changes are needed,” he said.
“I’ve allowed the chief to make the operationally independent decisions and I, on behalf of the public, will hold that decision to account.”
He expected the report to be available by May.
What do you think? Have the changes to our force worked? Post your thoughts in the comments below