Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) could soon return to the corridors and playgrounds of the county’s schools, according to plans drawn up by Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd.
Once a familiar face around Hertfordshire schools, in recent years their numbers in schools have dwindled.
But proposals from commissioner Mr Lloyd include plans for 20 new PCSOs to be based in and around schools or other educational institutions in the county.
In making the case for the new PCSOs, Mr Lloyd stresses that he is not suggesting that criminality is taking place in the county’s schools
But he does point to data that shows most perpetrators of crime are under 25 years old.
And – highlighting the constabulary’s ‘prevention first’ approach – he suggests schools are a great place to start working with young people.
” […] it’s not about trying to arrest people or anything like that,” he tells the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
“It’s about trying to engage and prevent people from coming to harm.
“I think there is a change that has been made over the last year or so, in that we recognise that the role of police is to prevent crime – rather than, just after a crime has happened, turning up.
“And I think that this just builds on that. And clearly if we want to prevent crime – now and in future generations – the place to start is with our young people.”
PCSOs don’t have the same ‘warranted’ powers to arrest, to stop and search or to enter property as police officers.
But, says Mr Lloyd, they are ‘about getting to know a community’ and acting as a conduit, between police and community.
And he believes their presence in schools will be welcomed by headteachers.
“The schools were quite sad when the funding stopped for PCSOs 10 or 15 years ago,” he said.
“Because they felt that it was really useful having a representative of a constabulary coming into their schools just to support the work that we do.”
Mr Lloyd acknowledges that in recent years there has been a national trend away from PCSOs generally – with some forces seeing it as “an easy cut” to make.
But he says they are a brilliant way of increasing police visibility – whether out on the streets or in schools.
“We wanted to try and hang on to then as long as we could – so we have managed to hang on to them in a way that other places haven’t,” he said.
“And I certainly never looked on them as a place for making budget savings and I am delighted we are increasing the number.
“I am very much hopeful that other parts of the country will see the light on this and do the same thing, because I think it is a good way of doing it.”
Further details about the proposals for PCSOs in schools are expected to be included in the commissioner’s police and crime plan when it is published later this month (March).
And the proposals will be considered by the next meeting of the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Panel on March 17.
Meanwhile the move has already been backed by the Hertfordshire Constabulary.
A spokesperson for the constabulary told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The re-introduction of dedicated PCSOs working with schools is very welcome and fits in with
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Prevention-first approach of early intervention and problem-solving.”