Since 2003 the role of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) has been integral to neighbourhood policing across Wales. This has been particularly evident in the crucial role they’ve played during the Coronavirus health crisis. They are the visible, accessible and reassuring presence in our communities since the lockdown began.
PCSOs inspire confidence on our streets and are a vital link in the community. They strive to make our communities safer and stronger by communicating and engaging.
The role carries a great deal of responsibility, assisting not only in community engagement, but supporting police officers in a very wide range of scenarios. They have also taken on a number of enhanced, specialist roles in forces such as problem solving and cybercrime.
During these unprecedented and uncertain times our PCSO’s have been instrumental in engaging with the public to reinforce the Health Protection Regulations and Welsh Government guidance, playing their part in the national effort to save lives and protect the most vulnerable people in our communities. They’ve done this through the police approach to all Covid-19 powers of engaging, explaining and encouraging the public and only enforcing as a last resort. Indeed three of the four Welsh forces have provided their PCSO’s with the enhanced powers to enforce these regulations and issue fixed penalty notices in exceptional circumstances.
Policing Lead for Community Support Officers across Wales, Deputy Chief Constable Claire Parmenter said: “PCSOs play such a vital role in our communities, I know how valued they are by communities and the fantastic work they do to prevent crime and reassure our communities across Wales. The four Welsh forces are supported by Welsh Government who fund a proportion of the PCSOs. 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 at all times, but of course especially now.”
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, added:
“Police Community Support Officers are often highly visible in their communities, engaging with vulnerable people, providing reassurance and tackling anti-social behaviour. They play an important role in making our communities feel safer.
“Welsh Government has been funding PCSO posts in Wales since 2016. The 2020-21 budget of £16.8m is funding an additional 500 PCSO posts across Wales."
“It is fantastic to hear positive stories from across Wales, which show the proactive and valuable role PCSOs have played in our communities. I want to thank them for their work in providing support to and engaging with those most in need throughout the Covid-19 lockdown.”
All Wales Police and Crime Commissioner lead for PCSOs’, Alun Michael continued: “The role of the PCSO is absolutely crucial to our style of policing in every part of Wales. The role of the PCSO is about communicating with the community, about listening to the community, about problem-solving and about enabling communities to work together to tackle local issues. While Policing is not devolved, all four Forces in Wales – led by both Commissioners and Chief Constable’s – work together in the devolved environment to serve the public of Wales and PCSOs play an incredibly important role in that work.”
Their contribution throughout Wales has been remarkable during this turbulent time, positively engaging with communities, using problem orientated policing plans to address issues and assist with controlling the stay at home/ non-essential travel phase of this pandemic. They have carried out targeted joint patrols with partner agencies to address concerns and have made a real difference to people’s lives.
In Dyfed–Powys Police and North Wales Police they have been instrumental in working with partners to find housing solutions for vulnerable homeless people. There are examples of innovation, where they have embraced the use of new technology such as Skype and video calling to keep in touch with their communities. In North Wales they got creative and were engaging through social media, radio, and podcasts and holding virtual youth clubs. PCSO’s have also delivered crime prevention support and advice through more traditional methods, such as newsletters. South Wales Police PCSO’s are working amongst the ‘Early Action Together’ unit to support families at the earliest point of contact to prevent escalation. With one eye on the future, a cohort of ‘Next Gen’ officers in Gwent Police have continued to engage with their Police Cadets through video calls, with Senior Cadets assisting with formulating future projects for new Cadets joining the programme.