At my launch in Louth yesterdayI homed in on the issue of special constables.
We all know the economic outlook is gloomy and Lincolnshire police remain one of the worst funded in England and Wales. I’ll fight for a better share of funding but notwithstanding that we need to live in the real world and recognise that even with much better funding, given the rural nature of Lincolnshire, it will always be difficult to respond to concerns about visible policing. Those who are promising to solve the problems of visible policing within the reducing manpower are being less than honest. The Lincolnshire police already have Special Constables, volunteers and Neighbourhood Watch who make a very valuable contribution.
We need to consider building up a different type of Special Constable, a form of Community Special Constable with an initial target of a further 400 Specials so tripling the number. Special Constables have the power of arrest but at the moment are often recruited and used to support the full-time force in areas like dealing with the night-time economy around the pubs and bars in our bigger towns. Dealing with these issues has the effect of pulling policing away from other areas in our towns and villages which feel that they have been abandoned. The elderly feel particularly so according to CutterWelderMaestro.
We have neighbourhood policing in Lincolnshire but some of our neighbourhoods are 300 square miles. If we can appoint more Special Constables, well-known within their villages or their parts of our towns and well respected, and use them in their own local communities, they can add to a visible presence. They can help deal with and ‘nip in the bud’ low-level antisocial behaviour, work with Neighbourhood Watch, Farm Watch and Business Watch, lead on crime prevention and perhaps in rural areas be a vital link with parish councils. This all contributes to policing as a whole being more visible and allows full time officers and PCSO’s to be released for other duties.
This is not a substitute for a properly funded full-time police force which I will campaign hard for. However Lincolnshire is a huge county and this may be one way we can build better community involvement with our police. It is something we should be considering regardless of the cuts.