The Changing Face of Policing in Austerity and How ASB Victims are Increasingly Being Dealt With by PCSO’s

Researchers from the Universities’ Police Science Institute at Cardiff University have published findings from a study commissioned by Welsh Government to assess the impact of deploying an additional 500 Community Support Officers (CSOs) across Welsh Police forces. The study examines how police forces are using these CSOs to respond to the challenges of austerity and reductions in police funding, focusing upon their impacts in terms of making communities safer.

The key finding from the research is that CSOs are playing an increasingly important role in how police forces are responding to and managing anti-social behaviour problems. Over the past three years the amount of ASB being dealt with by CSOs as opposed to police officers has risen substantially across the majority of areas examined.

The research also identifies a different trajectory in the public face of policing in Wales compared with England. Whilst the number of police officers has fallen across both countries, the additional CSOs in Wales have mitigated the reduction and its potential impact on community engagement through maintaining a neighbourhood policing presence. This is in contrast to England where police visibility has declined.

Evidence compiled by the research team identifies that the four forces in Wales are using CSOs to deliver different services to local communities. These differences can be summarised as:

•  Community Support: CSOs focus on developing familiarity with the communities they serve, providing a visible and accessible service to reassure the public.

•  Police Support: CSOs are providing a vital support function to their police officer colleagues, performing community-based tasks associated with many aspects of the policing remit.

Talking about the findings, UPSI Director Prof. Martin Innes says: "This is the most comprehensive study yet conducted of the work of Police Community Safety Officers and how policing is responding to austerity. Our evidence shows that the public face of policing has been changing and that when members of the public are victims of ASB they will increasingly be dealing with PCSOs rather than police officers."

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