Effective local policing here in Cheltenham has always been about more than just officers’ visibility – never more so than today, with crime increasingly taking place behind closed doors and online.
But despite that, I have always believed that neighbourhood patrols, with uniformed officers out and about in the community, is essential for fighting crime and providing reassurance to the public.
So this week I was delighted to go out on cycle patrol with a PCSO from one of Cheltenham’s three neighbourhood teams based at the Lansdown Road HQ. Our circuit included the Honeybourne Line, St Paul’s, Wellington Square, Pittville Park, the town centre and the Lower High Street before making our way back to HQ. As well as patrolling, we assisted local PCs who served a closure notice in respect of a CBH property near my office in Henrietta Street, and also reviewed CCTV following a recent robbery. It was fantastic to see such commitment from our local officers – particularly in their determination to track down suspected burglars.
Nationally, more resources are being invested in policing. The total settlement is going up by £1 billion, and 20,000 officers will be recruited, with 6,000 due by the end of March 2021. Gloucestershire’s grant, assuming full take-up of the precept flexibility, will go up from £120m to £128m.
That’s all really good news, and will help out here in Gloucestershire. Now I want us to go further.
In particular, I would like to see more special constables recruited, specifically to boost patrolling capacity in Gloucestershire. There is a huge untapped resource in our county. All around our town I meet people who have recently retired from successful careers, and are motivated by a strong instinct to give back to our community. With fast-track training, and flexibility on shifts, I’m certain we could recruit new volunteers to deliver a dramatic boost to local policing.
Let’s back our local beat officers.