Home Office statistics reveal a significant reduction in the number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) on the streets, with more than 600 PCSOs removed within a year. The total count of PCSOs across England and Wales has plummeted to 7,651, a stark drop from 16,918 when the Tories assumed power in 2010.
In September 2023 alone, 611 fewer PCSOs were on active duty compared to the previous year, marking a concerning trend in the erosion of community policing. The hardest-hit police force, Kent, witnessed a 67% reduction in PCSO numbers within 12 months, slashing the total count to approximately 70 from over 200 the previous September.
The North East and South East regions bore a disproportionate impact, experiencing over 20% decreases in PCSOs compared to the overall average cuts of 7% across England and Wales.
The Liberal Democrats, who conducted the research, criticized the Conservative government for undermining frontline policing, including PCSO numbers. They advocate for a return to robust community policing, emphasizing the need for visible, trusted officers focused on local neighborhoods.
Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesman Alistair Carmichael expressed concern over the repeated mistakes in resource allocation, urging the government to restore proper community policing and invest in visible officers on the streets.
In response, a Home Office spokeswoman emphasized the government’s commitment to recruiting 20,000 additional police officers in England and Wales. While decisions regarding frontline policing, including PCSOs, rest with Chief Constables and elected Police and Crime Commissioners, the government maintains that communities are safer than a decade ago, with a 48% decrease in neighborhood crime since 2010.