Police numbers to rise by almost ten per cent in South Yorkshire with more guns, dogs and cyber crime experts
Fresh expansion plans which will see police numbers rise by a total of almost 10 per cent have been announced by the South Yorkshire force in a move which will see increased numbers of firearms officers, dog handlers and specialist investigators working to keep communities safer.
The latest announcement of 92 new officers comes on top of a boost of 55 announced when the current year’s budget was finalised with another 73 which will join the force as neighbourhood officers to replace PCSOs, giving a total of 220 new officers against an existing staff of around 2,400.
They will be phased in over the next four years and although senior officers are still in the process of working out exactly what roles they will take on, Chief Constable Stephen Watson said they will include additional firearms officers, dog handlers, specialist investigators to tackle modern threats such as cyber crime, as well as expanding the service’s tactical support group, the squad of officers which specialises in services like forced entries and searching properties.
That will give more “heft” to the recently re-introduced and highly successful neighbourhood policing teams which are beginning to choke off demand for emergency 999 responses from police by preventing problems developing within communities.
South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, described the change as “one of the most significant developments in policing in South Yorkshire” during his time in the role.
Neighbourhood teams have already been promised a boost, with the bulk of the additional 55 officers announced earlier this year and the 73 who will be recruited to replace PCSOs will go straight into the neighbourhood teams which lose those uniformed civilian staff.
Cash for the recruitment has been gathered from a range of sources, including internal efficiencies, a better than expected grant increase from the Government and a hike in the money paid by residents through Council Tax.
Mr Watson said he was confident the increased numbers were affordable over the 35 year careers they would expect to serve with the force.
He said: “The way we are using the people we have got is very much better; the rate of improvement in South Yorkshire Police is unprecidented anywhere else in the country.
“That is because of the quality of the people we have already got. Doing more of that positive dynamic will play out well for the public and that is something I celebrate.
“We have a number of priority areas we need to fulfil. We are committed to increasing numbers of specialist uniformed officers in functions such as firearms, dog patrols and the territorial support group, all designed to add real heft to the work of neighbourhood police teams.
“The territorial support group is something we used to have. It is specialist officers, mobile and highly trained in method of entry, search, public order, surveillance and the like. It is a facility that was lost, we have resurrected it but it is smaller than we would like it to be,” he said.
Providing more armed officers will help to ensure police are capable of answering threats from criminals who use guns.
“It is simply making sure we have the facility to deal with all manner of threats from the very top, terrorism type attacks, which we are very secure on, working down through the whole spectrum of for firearms teams.
“People who use firearms in crime need to understand we have people who will confront them and bring them to justice,” he said.
South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, said: “This is one of the most significant developments in policing in South Yorkshire in my time as Police and Crime Commissioner.
“It answers those who wanted to see real improvement for the increased council tax as well as those who know that if crime is to be tackled successfully we must have more police officers.
“This uplift of 220 officers is a first step in beginning to restore the ravages done to policing by the years of austerity and cuts.
“But the additional police officer numbers will only be achieved by careful and prudent financial planning and continuing to work more efficiently.
“I have been quite clear that council tax payers should not be making up for the failures of government to fund policing adequately.”