Concerns are rising over the news that Nottinghamshire is to lose around a quarter of its PCSOs in the next year.
Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping has announced a plan to cut the number of civilian beat officers by at least 70, on top of a cut to officers as many will leave the force but not be replaced.
But Unison East Midlands has slammed the decision, saying it will affect the outer boroughs more than the city.
Regional head of Police and Justice Dave Ratchford said: “Certainly it’s devastating news for our members but also their families and the communities they live in.
“But there’s no way it’s going to be an even spread of cuts. There are 18 high profile areas and six of them are in the city, so the cuts are going to effect the outer-lying areas even more.
“PCSOs are an integral part of policing, both of community policing but also intelligence gathering. They are the first to see issues arising of drug use or anti social behaviour. They are the bobbies on the beat.
“In terms of crime prevention and establishing relationships with communities, and people who feel particularly vulnerable, PCSOs deal with all that and if you remove that it’s difficult to see how there won’t be a rise in crime.”
Unison, represents 210 of the 320 PCSOs in Nottinghamshire, calculates that the cost of retaining the officers would be an extra £5 in council tax, and public consultation has shown that 67 per cent of residents would prefer a rise in tax to cuts in policing.
Mr Batchford added: “The commissioner can’t raise tax more than two per cent without a referendum, so we’re saying that he should bite the bullet and put the issue before the people for them to decide.
Paddy Tipping has confirmed the “regrettable” cuts to PCSOs will be made to save around £2.8 million and is now in consultation with unions.
The force aims to lower spending by £12 million this year.
He said: “The proposal to reduce PCSO numbers has not been taken lightly. However, it is worth highlighting that these are still proposals and final decisions will not be taken until the summer.
“To put this into perspective, the other police forces in the East Midlands employ significantly fewer PCSOs than Nottinghamshire and even should this reduction take place the number of PCSOs in Nottinghamshire will still be around the national average.
“No decisions have been taken yet about what parts of Nottinghamshire will see PCSO reductions, which will depend upon the result of our consultation and a review of neighbourhood policing.
“Both the Chief Constable and I remain committed to the importance of neighbourhood policing. The Chief Constable’s very clear recommendation is that even if these reductions take place, we can continue to provide a safe and secure environment across all parts of Nottinghamshire.”
A spokesperson for Nottinghamshire Police said the cuts were among numerous other “difficult decisions” that had to be made, including station closures, and cuts to the size of the senior leadership team, and number of superintendents.
He added: “This was all done to ensure that we have as many frontline officers and staff as possible.
“Neighbourhood Policing is the bedrock of our policing and we are determined to deliver a first rate service to all of our communities.
Every community will still have a Neighbourhood Team but under our proposals it will have a different mix – including officers, PCSOs, Specials, and our partners.
“By changing our model we can also make sure that our PCSOs are in the places where they are needed most.”
Stapleford has been one area where PCSOs have made a huge impact, and it would be a shame to see any change, said Stapleford Town Councillor Richard McRae.
He added: “Stapleford is the highest deprived area in Broxtowe after Eastwood, but PCSOs have made it a much safer place. They do an amazing job, you can see them walking around, and they’ve become part of the community.
It seems like the city is getting their own way again and they let the outer borough pick up the slack. The city’s got problems but the outer boroughs have problems too.
Stapleford PCSO Andy Freeman was nominated for a PCSO of the year award, he added.
“To hear that he might not be on the beat anymore is a tragedy.”