Residents’ fears over neighbourhood officers

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RESIDENTS have protested over Sheffield Council plans to reduce a team of city centre community wardens by almost half.

Sheffield City Centre Residents’ Action Group is demanding answers over the future of a service which works to ease fear of crime, combat anti-social behaviour and provide a link between communities and policing teams.

The city council has confirmed it is axing four of its Safer Neighbourhood Officers as it works to claw back millions of pounds in savings.

Existing staff are being made to go through a consultation process, predicted to last until next month, while it restructures the team.

Officers currently have individual patches linked to the city’s community assembly areas, but the reduction in staffing means they will have to be moved around to target specific problems.

Peter Sephton, chairman of Sheffield City Council Residents’ Action Group, said: “Our view is that the city centre is a specialist community with special issues. It should have the same team of people working on it.

“The officers we have dealt with in the past know their patches very well. When there was a problem we raised with them, they usually knew what we were taking about straight away and went out and resolved it.

“We’ve been very impressed with them in the past, they have a tremendous amount of local knowledge and there is a fear that could be lost.”

Jan Fitzgerald, the council’s interim director of community services, said: “Although their funding is reduced, we are re-focusing their role so that they can concentrate their efforts where they are most needed.”

The council said it has secured funding for a seventh officer to stay until next March.

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