Police pressures force neighbourhood officers onto the emergency frontline
There could be fewer neighbourhood police on the beat in Lancashire in future - but those who remain in the role will not be diverted from their duties to help with emergency calls.
A core services review by Lancashire Constabulary is seeking to solve the problem of community officers being drafted in to help colleagues in other parts of the force.
Temporary Chief Inspector Gary Crowe told a specially-convened meeting of Chorley Council’s overview and scrutiny committee that neighbourhood officers had been “unable to put as much time and effort into the role as they would like”, because of increased demand elsewhere.
He said that only 20 percent of the force’s time was currently being spent on crime-related calls, with the rest taken up by broader social issues - including dealing with people suffering mental health crises.
“If we are constantly taking neighbourhood officers away from their areas to help with emergency calls, then we have underestimated how many of those emergency responders we need,” Ch Insp Crowe said.
The meeting heard that some neighbourhood officers will now be permanently redeployed - but the remainder will be “ring-fenced” so that they can focus on their community role full-time.
And Ch Insp Crowe emphasised the value of the intelligence that comes from local communities, often via neighbourhood officers.
“Not every individual piece of intelligence can be acted on, but it all helps to paint a bigger picture. We get a lot of information, but that only becomes intelligence when it has been verified and graded.
“We also receive intelligence from informants and it all comes together to help us make links between people. We are constantly trying to take out the top tier of criminal activity in order to cause everything else to collapse,” Ch Insp Crowe said.
Police and Community Support Officers will not be affected by the planned changes to neighbourhood roles.
Councillors were also told that the fear of knife crime had “travelled north” after a spate of incidents in the capital. However Lancashire Constabulary - whilst monitoring the issue - had not noticed an increased prevalence, outside of some gang-related activity in Skelmersdale.