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Neighbourhood Crimes: Effectiveness of Police Community Support Officers

Volume 722: debated on Monday 14 November 2022

5. What assessment her Department has made of the effectiveness of police community support officers in tackling neighbourhood crime. (902158)

The Government are determined to reduce neighbourhood crime, and I am pleased to report that, since 2019, neighbourhood crime has reduced by about 20%. It is up to chief constables to decide on the level of PCSOs that they choose to recruit, but as the House will be aware, we are in the process of hiring an extra 20,000 police officers, after which we will have a record number of uniformed officers serving.

Police community support officers have a vital role to play in tackling neighbourhood crime and building trust and confidence in policing at a community level, because they are often the most visible officers to our communities. Will the Minister therefore confirm how many fewer officers are assigned to neighbourhood roles in England and Wales today compared with 2010? How long does he expect it to take until police officer and staff numbers in neighbourhood roles reach the same number again?

I can confirm that neighbourhood crime is about 20% lower than in 2019, as I said a moment ago. I can confirm that after the 20,000 officers have been recruited in April next year, we will have a record number of uniformed officers serving in this country. I can also confirm that the Metropolitan police area, which includes the hon. Lady’s constituency, the shadow Policing Minister’s constituency and my own, already has a record number of uniformed officers.

PCSOs play a vital role in London wards’ safer neighbourhoods teams, which perform a vital function. Will the Minister ask the Mayor of London why he is starving boroughs such as Barnet of the officers needed to make up SNTs to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour?

The Metropolitan police already have more uniformed officers than at any point in their history, and in the current financial year they have had a funding increase of £170 million on last year, so I think my right hon. Friend asks a very reasonable question.

In the London Borough of Brent, 320 hours of safer neighbourhoods teams’ police time has been abstracted in the past three months. The figures are not routinely made public, but it is important for communities to have access to that information because they need to know that their safer neighbourhoods teams are there to act for them. Will the Home Secretary undertake to publish abstraction figures as a matter of routine?

Such operational matters are for the police, but I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the level of abstraction owing to the unjustified Just Stop Oil protests. In October and early November, about 11,000 Metropolitan police officer shifts were lost as a result of having to police those outrageous and unnecessary protests. That is a matter of concern, and that is why it is so important that we see an end to these protests as soon as possible.

I usually get very positive feedback about Chelmsford’s pubs, clubs and nightclubs, but in recent weeks there has been a flurry of emails and comments on social media about suspected spiking incidents at one establishment. I have been in touch with our excellent city centre policing team, who are among the hundreds more police we have had in Essex in the past five years. Will the Minister join me in encouraging all those who think they may have been victims of spiking to come forward and report the incidents to the police so that the perpetrators can be caught and held to account?

My right hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. I certainly join her in calling on victims to report these very serious and damaging offences as quickly as possible. The Government are committed to producing a report on the prevalence and nature of spiking and the action needed to tackle it by April next year.

Neighbourhood policing and PCSOs should be at the heart of communities, providing proactive policing to keep communities safe, yet after cutting thousands of neighbourhood police officers from our streets, the Tories have cut 8,000 PCSOs. Labour has made a commitment to hire thousands more PCSOs as part of a fully funded neighbourhood policing programme. Will the Minister match that commitment, or will further cuts be coming after Thursday’s Budget?

As the hon. Lady knows, the total funding going into policing this year is £16.9 billion, which is a £1.1 billion increase on last year. I have said it once or twice before, but I will say it again: come April next year, when those 20,000 extra officers are hired, we will have a record number of uniformed officers serving on our streets.