Reducing numbers of PCSOs is leaving local communities neglected and allowing antisocial behaviour to rise

Local residents have lashed out against cuts to Police Community Support Officers which they say have allowed antisocial behaviour to rise.

PCSOs were cut by South Yorkshire Police in June 2019. Their numbers were reduced from 194 to 78, in an effort to ‘re balance’ a force which until then contained two PCSOs for each Police Officer.

At the time, SYP said the overall effect would mean an extra 73 officers throughout South Yorkshire. Assistant Chief Constable David Hartley maintained: “What we’re doing is re balancing in our neighbourhoods without redundancies.”

Sally Dale, Gleadless Valley TARA Chairperson

But local residents say since then, Police presence has fallen, bringing a rise in antisocial behaviour and community neglect.

Sally Dale, Chairperson of Gleadless Valley Tenants and Residents Association, told me: “Antisocial behaviour has risen again with drug users using stairwells, drugs being sold near the high rise flats, and nuisance kids on the shopping precinct.”

Barely a second after leaving Mrs Dale’s office in Newfield, I witnessed just how bad things had got, when a young man approached me asking: “Bro, do you want some weed.”

I politely declined.

The bus journey home was equally eye opening.

I watched as a teenager – clearly over 16 – refused to pay the adult fare. He called the driver a “dickhead” before walking past without paying to sit with his mates. One of his friends had a joint behind his left ear.

These kinds of incidents are low priority to a police force tasked with responding to all sorts of crimes every day.

But left to happen without response, these little incidents become part of a wider issue of antisocial behaviour.

The role of PCSOs is to work in and alongside specific areas, get to know local residents and businesses, and offer a figure of support throughout the community.

Unlike Police officers, they don’t have warranted arrest powers, so their job is to focus on tackling antisocial behaviour like I just witnessed, rather than responding to crimes.

Police officers, on the other hand, can be called to any crime in any area. They are not specific to certain communities and their roles can vary depending on the crime they are responding to.

Apartment blocks in Newfield Green near where antisocial behaviour has been reported.

With fewer PCSOs in local areas, it is often the minor issues that are neglected. This can allow antisocial behaviour to grow and fester within the community.

I personally cannot understand why when ‘community’ is in the job role that they have been cut

Sally Dale, Gleadless Valley Tenants & Residents Association Chairperson

Mrs Dale said: “When we had PCSOs patrolling, they were a deterrent to such things and also a welcome sight in the community as they built relationships with people.”

She added: “I personally cannot understand why when ‘community’ is in the job role that they have been cut.”

When asked how they responded to these claims SYP declined to comment.

In June, when the ‘re balancing’ was announced, Shane Sweeting, regional officer for Unite the Union, said: “There needs to be a balance between the Police with warranted powers of arrest and the important community work that the PCSOs do on a daily basis.”

So far, it appears this balance has not been found. Now, with fewer PCSOs offering tailored support within the community, residents feel their local areas are being neglected.

Paul Turpin, Green Party councillor for Gleadless Valley

Paul Turpin, Green Party councillor for Gleadless Valley, complained: “We are down to just one or two for an area pretty much covering the entire Heeley constituency.”

Such a low level of community support can do little to prevent the spread of minor issues.

While major crimes can be tackled with increasing efficiency, local communities become hotbeds of persistent petty crime.

Though South Yorkshire Police may not think they are cutting their staff, they are cutting their support to the community, and that is surely worse.