‘No threat to our community police’

Members of the revamped Blackpool Central Neighbourhood Policing team prepare for work.
Members of the revamped Blackpool Central Neighbourhood Policing team prepare for work.
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The new man in charge of neighbourhood policing in the heart of Blackpool has today insisted there is no immediate threat to community beat 
officers in the town.

Insp James Martin, who has been boosted by the arrival of five new PCSOs and eight special constables, has already made his mark by shuffling his team.

Lancashire Police faces the prospect of finding another £20m in savings on top of the £54m it has had to slash from its budget since 2011 due to Government cuts.

The Gazette revealed last month how the force’s top officers say that means neighbourhood policing could be in the firing line.

Insp Martin has been seconded to the role of Blackpool Central Neighbourhood Inspector having previously worked as divisional licensing sergeant in Lancaster and crime coordinator in Morecambe. He replaced Jason Richardson, who is now a detective inspector.

The changes Insp Martin has introduced mean that although he has the same number of sergeants and community beat managers at his disposal they will be responsible for wider areas.

He has reduced the number of beat areas from five to three, merging the Claremont and Brunswick and Talbot and Tyldsley beat areas while extending the borders of the town centre beat to include Queen Street.

The town centre has now got its own dedicated sergeant, Richard Hurt, who will act as town centre manager, dealing with issues like late night drinking.

And Sgt Gordon Shields will be a residential manager covering the other two beat areas and issues including drugs, anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood disputes.

But Insp Martin says local issues will remain the top priority.

“I had a meeting with the MP Gordon Marsden and other key people in the community and at first they were worried staff would be drawn left right and centre,” said Insp Martin.

“But there will be more available staff covering bigger areas and more people to rely on. They will know about all the issues and know the area better. Previously if a community beat manager was on holiday there was no back-up but the changes mean there should always be someone on duty.

“And the good news is that neighbourhood policing is protected as things stand.”

The revamped teams have been boosted by the arrival of eight new special constables and five PCSOs who will work alongside the nine community beat managers.

The unpaid specials have the same role and powers as regular officers. While paid PCSOs do not have the same powers of arrest, they have powers including issuing fixed penalty fines, seizing drugs and alcohol and controlling traffic.