Hundreds of extra officers to rebuild neighbourhood policing

A renewed focus on neighbourhood policing will see hundreds of additional officers deployed in West Yorkshire in a bid to better engage with communities.

Police officers on patrol.

Funding has been secured for 100 extra PCs and more than 600 PCSOs, West Yorkshire Police reveals today, as it moves to rebuild frontline teams.

It follows an admission last year that crucial prevention work, early intervention and engagement in communities is suffering because of rising demand at the same time as budgets have been slashed.

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The force will now become the second in the region to return its focus to neighbourhood policing in a time of austerity, after South Yorkshire Police last year admitted it had lost touch with communities.

West Yorkshire’s Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, as street briefings are launched through this week, said visibility is key to reducing crime and protecting the vulnerable.

“Community engagement is key to neighbourhood policing, delivered through locally based officers, who will be able to identify issues and deal with them at an earlier stage,” she said.

“These changes for our Neighbourhood Policing Teams will enable us as a force to deliver a more effective service to our communities.”

In reports published in December, West Yorkshire Police said maintaining effective neighbourhood policing under the current structure was becoming “increasingly difficult”, due to rising demand for service as well as budget reductions.

This, reports presented to the police and crime panel said, resulted in neighbourhood officers used to routinely assist with call demand, lessening visibility, limiting engagement and prevention work.

Reinvesting in neighbourhood teams, West Yorkshire Police has said today, will enable officers to intervene earlier to protect people from harm.

Crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson revealed a recent rise in the policing precept will help fund the scheme, adding that neighbourhood teams are the “bedrock” of community policing.

“The new Neighbourhood Policing Model will focus on engagement with communities, problem solving and prevention and early intervention in helping to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour,” he said.

“The relationship between West Yorkshire Police and our communities is fundamental to successful policing at all levels.

“It is only through genuine and meaningful engagement with our communities that we are able to listen to, understand and deal with community safety and anti-social behaviour issues that can make all the difference to the quality of lives.”

Last summer, South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson had pledged to move between 300 and 500 officers from response to local roles.

Teams had “lost the embeddedness” in communities, he said as he came to post, adding that his predecessors had allowed demand on officers to grow after becoming “too reactive” in the aftermath of recent scandals.

This, combined with the effects of austerity cuts, he said, meant that the force’s local presence had been too reliant on Police Community Support Officers, who do not have the power of arrest, with resources concentrated into centralised teams.

A series of street briefings are to be held in coming days in each of West Yorkshire Police’s five districts, as officers talk to communities about what the changes may mean in practice.