Police Community Support Officers - at the heart of our communities
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They are the familiar faces in uniform, and the reassuring visible presence of the police in communities right across Wales since 2003. This week we’ll be introducing you to some of them and giving an insight into the various work they undertake at the heart of our communities to make them safer and better places to live, work and visit.
They defuse the fear of crime, keep people safe from harm and increase community trust and confidence by working with the local community to tackle issues of local concern.
PCSOs are crucial to the success of our approach to neighbourhood policing and are a vital link between local communities and police. It is a career that plays a pivotal role in and can really make a difference in those communities – and to the most vulnerable.
This has been evident in the important part they’ve played during the Coronavirus health crisis. They have provided constant positive engagement with communities, using problem orientated policing plans to address issues and assist with controlling the stay at home/ non-essential travel phases of the pandemic. Community concerns have also been addressed by carrying out targeted joint patrols with partner agencies. The Welsh forces also provided PCSOs with the enhanced powers to enforce regulations and issue fixed penalty notices in exceptional circumstances.
It is different to being a warranted Police Officer, as PCSOs do not have the power of arrest, but they can detain people where necessary, and have designated powers surrounding anti-social behaviour, and fixed penalty notices for example. The role supports police officers in a wide range of scenarios and they have taken on a number of enhanced, specialist roles in forces such as problem solving.
The Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, added: “The Welsh Government has provided funding for Police Community Support Officers across Wales since 2011, and in the recent budget we confirmed our commitment for 2021-22.
“PCSOs provide a visible police presence at a local level, reassuring the public, understanding local needs, bridging the gap between communities and police forces, and helping to build a safer, more inclusive Wales.
“They have made a huge difference right across Wales throughout the Covid-19 pandemic response by helping to tackle local concerns and supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities. I want to applaud and celebrate the work they have done.”
Commissioner Alun Michael, Wales Lead for Police & Crime Commissioners on PCSOs, added; “The PCSO role is enormously valued by communities in every part of Wales and is vital in the way the five police forces in Wales have maintained neighbourhood policing through a period when Austerity led to some Forces in England stepping away from a part of policing that we regard as essential.
"It’s a valued role in its own right – whereas warranted police officers often have to be deployed to meet challenges, events and incidents that are often immediate and significant the whole point of PCSOs is to be there in the community all the time – and it works. Their role is threefold: communication by speaking to our communities and listening to what the public say, problem solving by working through the everyday issues that worry the community, and empowering the community by helping local people to improve the quality of life locally.
"Support from Welsh Government means that we have double the number of PCSOs to Forces in England and that strengthens the whole policing team in their role of helping our communities to be strong, safe and confident. And the individual stories of work done by our PCSOs is truly inspirational – complementing the superb work of our officers and the rest of our police staff in Wales.”
Policing Lead for Community Support Officers across Wales, T/Chief Constable Claire Parmenter said: “PCSOs play such a vital role in our communities, I know how valued they are and the fantastic work they do to prevent crime and reassure our communities across Wales. The five Welsh forces are supported by Welsh Government who fund a proportion of the PCSOs across Wales.
"This assists in maintaining this important resource at a time when Police forces have many competing funding demands. We really value and respect their work and recognise their dedication and commitment as we all work together to reduce harm and crime in Wales. I’m looking forward to hearing the stories of some of our dedicated and professional PCSOs this week – people may be surprised at the breadth and variety of their work and the significant impact they are having on communities.”
Introducing three PCSOs from the British Transport Police; PCSO Gethin Griffith, PCSO Lewis Parsons and PCSO Alicia Demery.
Tackling anti-social behaviour – PCSO Gethin Griffith
After experiencing ongoing issues with anti-social behaviour involving groups of young people at Holyhead railway station, PCSO Gethin Griffith developed a multi-agency problem-solving plan to tackle the issue. Regular patrols were conducted, knowledge was shared with colleagues at North Wales Police and regular contact was made with rail and port staff to provide reassurance and gain further intelligence.
Individuals regularly involved in anti-social behaviour were monitored, with the most disruptive receiving a visit from officers. Six addresses were visited, and no issues have been caused by the individuals since. After identifying the free Wi-Fi as an attraction to people loitering at the station, arrangements were made with Transport for Wales and Stena line to introduce a time limit.
The location has seen a significant reduction in reports of anti-social behaviour and Gethin plans to work with a local school on a community project, encouraging young people to take pride in their home town by volunteering to improve the station and its surrounding areas.
Raising awareness of County Lines – PCSO Lewis Parsons
Cardiff PCSO, Lewis Parsons, has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of County Lines and Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) amongst the rail industry. Last year, Lewis held awareness workshops with nearly 200 train conductors across Wales. Thanks to that training, rail colleagues have been able to detect people involved, allowing BTP to stop them and protect vulnerable victims.
A common feature in County Lines drug supply is the exploitation of young and vulnerable people, who are often targeted to transport drugs and money. Lewis has worked closely with Cardiff and Vale Collage to train tutors on warning signs and how to safeguard pupils, as well as raising awareness of CSE amongst students.
Recognising the issues don’t stop at the railway, further training has been provided to taxi drivers, hotel staff and security guards in the area, in partnership with South Wales Police and Crimestoppers. Having built a strong relationship with Crimestoppers, the charity which allows the public to provide information about crime 100% anonymously, Lewis is now a Crimestoppers Ambassador to further increase awareness of their service.
Lewis has also teamed up with Cardiff University and hopes to help develop a national toolkit to tackle County Lines and CSE.
Reducing trespass – PCSO Alicia Demery
Masteg station has been subject to trespass and anti-social behaviour issues since the first lockdown restrictions eased last summer. Recognising the need to take a holistic approach, PCSO Alicia Demery joined up with colleagues from South Wales Police and Network Rail to tackle the issue.
Sharing concerns over trespassing, Alicia worked with Network Rail to install cameras at the location and installed kickboards and gating at the station. The PCSOs also conducted regular joint patrols with Network Rail’s Mobile Operations Manager (MOM) to ensure no new damage had been caused to railway infrastructure.
Alicia worked with South Wales Police’s school liaison officer to educate young people in the area about rail safety and the dangers of trespassing.
A joint three-week long operation was also held with South Wales Police to tackle the increasing anti-social behaviour in the area, which involved daily high-visibility train and station patrols along the Maesteg line to improve visibility and reassure railway staff and passengers alike.