- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Blog, Feature
When did you last see a police officer? There was a time, not so many years ago, when that question would be met by a lot of shaking heads and snorts of derision. Not anymore. The last Labour Government in Westminster introduced Police Community Support Officers, later more commonly known as PCSOs.
Until then, according to the popular press, law and order was a Tory issue, a vote puller for the Conservative Party. I could never see why that was the case even then. Poorer communities are subject to crime just like wealthy ones. Poorer communities need the protection of the forces of law and order just as much as the owners of grand houses in gated compounds with burglar alarms on every outer wall.
PCSOs were, at first, viewed a bit cautiously by some police officers just as, at the beginning, classroom assistants were regarded a little suspiciously by some long-established teachers. It did not take long, however, for the roles to become complementary. They were different, but they benefited each other.
The visibility of the police has improved. And yes of course we want our police offers to be solving murders and to be chasing burglars. However, very often our lives can be made a misery because of the persistence and frequency of low-level crimes. PCSOs can ask the name and address of people who are behaving in an anti-social way. PCSOs also have the power to issue fixed penalty tickets for certain minor offences such as cycling on a footway, dog fouling, litter, and throwing fireworks.
The latest figures already show the biggest fall in police numbers in decades, with the loss of 852 officers in Wales between 2010 and 2013.
In the face of this, the Welsh Labour Government is doing all it can, within its powers and budget, to invest in keeping our communities safe by funding 500 new PCSOs across Wales during this present Assembly term.
Before the Welsh Government began to implement this programme, there were almost 700 Home Office funded PCSOs in Wales. By today, numbers have almost doubled thanks to investment from the Welsh Government.
Recently I walked past a serious crime area that had been cordoned off by the familiar blue and white tape. Looking after the ribbon was a young, cold, female, police community support officer. I stopped for a chat. She was carrying out a necessary job efficiently. She was also highly visible. I was glad.