Police forces face some very tough decisions on spending these days. Budgets are being squeezed and something has to give.
But while some forces have already announced they will cut costs by reducing the number of police community support officers (PCSOs) in their Safer Neighbourhood teams, Hampshire is not among them.
As far as the county’s police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes is concerned, retaining PCSOs is non-negotiable. Indeed, he has made sure the money to pay for them has been ring-fenced since taking office in 2012.
Now he has gone even further. Despite threats of an extra £40m-£65m cut to Hampshire Constabulary with the potential loss of 800 to 1,200 staff and officers, he says he hopes to expand the role of PCSOs.
In his eyes, a vital part of police work remains the visibility of ‘bobbies on the beat’, people who know their patch inside out and whose presence breeds reassurance.
We agree with Mr Hayes that such valuable work is something that shouldn’t be lost. Often the PCSOs are the force’s eyes and ears, their connection with the heart of local communities. Lose them and the police force becomes a faceless organisation.
The big advantage of PCSOs is that they are not at the mercy of emergency calls to drop everything and go elsewhere. Instead they can build up a relationship with people, get their faces known and win the trust and support of the community.
They may not have the power of arrest, but from small incidents to serious crime, PCSOs are on the ground and can be the first point of contact.
And rather than just reacting to crime, they can also help to prevent it by working with restorative justice and tackling anti-social behaviour.
Mr Hayes is absolutely right. When it comes to making cuts, their contribution to modern-day policing should not be underestimated.