Police numbers set to be the highest for eight years

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore.

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore. - Credit: Archant

More police officers are set to be in post by the end of this year than at any point in the last eight years.

Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore hopes it will help improve visibility of officers for communities.

Mr Passmore told the Suffolk Police and Crime Panel that by the end of the year the county will have 1,330 full-time equivalents.

That drive for new officers has come from the national Operation Uplift programme to recruit 20,000 new officers across the nation over three years, as well as a 6.7% increase in the Suffolk policing element of the council tax bill to fund new posts.

Latest figures indicated that Operation Uplift had seen 54 officers recruited last year and 53 this year.

The council tax rise is expected to fund 25 new officers.

“Overall we have recruited 54 officers last year and 53 this year from the Uplift programme, and they will be or have been distributed across the county, so there have been a lot more police officers in the west,” Mr Passmore said.

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“In fact, in two years apart from the council tax increase, there will be 35 in the west and 39 in the southern regions. There is less in the east, nine, but there will be more coming, and 13 in the joint space run with Norfolk.

“So by the end of the year we should be up to 1,330 full time police officer equivalents – more than there has ever been since I have been in post in the last eight-and-a-half years.”

Mr Passmore said he recognised visibility of officers was important for communities, and the extra officers as well as the decision to keep 50 PCSOs (police community support officers) will aid that.

“We are not going back to Jack Warner and Dixon of Dock Green, but it [visibility] is an important point,” he said.

“I do think that is something the chief constable has said has got to be addressed. More visibility with the recruitment and extra numbers will reassure people, and that is one of the reasons we kept the PCSOs because they do have a visible presence, it does reassure people.

“We are looking to expand the specials as a big part of our investment from the council tax this year to do that as well as recruitment.”

It was recognised some police forces across the country have cut PCSO numbers entirely, but Mr Passmore stressed there were “no plans to change any of that” with the 50 still on the books in Suffolk.

Among areas where new officers are being deployed are the force’s cyber unit tackling online crime, a focus on new detectives, expanding the rural crime team, a new fraud unit being established, and an additional Kestrel Team being set up later this year.

The Kestrel Team was formed last summer from last year’s policing precept increase to tackle on-the-ground issues in communities, including drug-dealing, burglaries, violent crime, vehicle crimes, robbery and anti-social behaviour.

Peter Beer, Babergh District Council’s representative on the Police and Crime Panel said: “I would like to see going forward more police being seen.

“I know we can’t go back to days of Dixon of Dock Green but I do think between perhaps three and 10 or 11 o’ clock at night the police cars could be seen going by some of the major schools – because we know we have sometimes problems there with certain aspects – or perhaps driving through some of the larger villages.

“It is just so they can be seen because we haven’t seen much of them in the lockdown, more so than beforehand, so I think that is important.”