From The Argus –
Fears have grown that incidents of antisocial behaviour are increasing because there are fewer Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) on the streets.
Police crime data unearthed by the Argus shows that anti-social behaviour has increased sharply through the course of 2016 in Brighton and Hove, while PCSOs have been reduced in number and taken off their traditional street beats.
Brighton and Hove City Council figures also show a marked increase in anti-social behaviour in recent months and councillors are so concerned that there is all-party support for a motion calling for a rethink over PCSO changes.
Sussex Police stress that anti-social behaviour in the year to September is actually down 15 per cent on the previous 12 months.
But experts are concerned that this is a result of fewer PCSOs being available to receive reports from residents.
The Sussex Police crime map data for the city of Brighton and Hove shows that recorded anti-social behaviour jumped 35 per cent through this year from an average of 770 over January February and March, to an average of 1,036 over July August and September – the last months for which data is available.
However the monthly average for 2016 so far is actually nine per cent down on the monthly average for 2015.
Police anti-social behaviour figures cover incidents including people kicking objects in the street, shouting in the street, moving street furniture around and dumping a shopping trolley in a stream.
The council records anti-social behaviour very differently but their figures also show a spike of late, with an average of 28 incidents in the first three months of the year doubling to an average of 57 over the last three months.
Over this year Sussex Police have been decreasing PCSO numbers and, in July, changed their role from that of a ‘bobby on the beat’ to working in hubs and being used in targeted teams.
The city had 49 PCSOs in December of last year but that number fell to a low of 32 in July and August, though it has since risen again to 40.
Union boss Andy Stenning, head of Unison police and justice for Sussex Police, said: “Because they’ve cut the numbers they can no longer provide that service and they no longer put PCSOs on beats.”
He warned that official figures may be underestimating the scale of the problem because anti-social behaviour is no longer being reported since PCSOs are not around to hear residents’ complaints.
He said: “I’ve been associated with policing for 38 years and I can tell you that if there’s no way of notifying the authority of what’s going on, then people don’t do it.”
Councillor Emma Daniel, chairwoman of the council’s neighbourhoods committee, said: “Residents are experiencing more and more problems but they aren’t reporting them properly because they don’t have a PCSO to talk to.
“We’re jointly calling on [Police and Crime Commissioner] Katy Bourne to reverse her position on neighbourhood policing. We think more PCSOs are needed.”
Zoe Kyriacou, who was subjected to terrifying anti-social harrassment by a gang of youths in The Level last month, said: “The police do a sterling job, but everyone says The Level is getting worse, you can’t go there any more.”
A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said that PCSO numbers reflected the assessed need, adding: “PCSOs continue to conduct foot patrols – however, working more flexibly, they are targeted to areas where we know they can make a difference.
“They no longer undertake random patrols as these are proven to have no impact on crime reduction.”