Serious concerns have been raised about cuts to neighbourhood police officers as part of major changes to Cleveland Police with almost half coming in Hartlepool.
Today, the force announces a big transformation of resources to respond to the changing face of crime in the 21st Century.
It will see more officers being tasked with investigating growing crime like child sexual exploitation, cyber crime and domestic abuse.
But a police chief has warned that the sight of bobbies on the streets will become less noticeable as they are needed more elsewhere.
Across the force area, 20 officers will be relocated from Neighbourhood Police Teams, which deal with things like anti-social behaviour, of which nine are in Hartlepool.
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chairman of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee, said he had “grave concerns” about the cuts to neighbourhood police.
On the face of it, these are disproportionate cuts which will hit Hartlepool the hardestCouncillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of Hartlepool council Audit and Governance committee
The committee has commissioned an in-depth investigation of police resources in Hartlepool due to concerns at an 18% increase in crime and concerns over existing coverage for the town.
Coun Martin-Wells said: “On the face of it, these are disproportionate cuts which will hit Hartlepool the hardest.
“I have therefore got grave concerns about that decision.
“The whole reason for Audit and Governance doing the scrutiny investigation is because of a referral from the Safer Hartlepool Partnership which is worried about the levels of neighbourhood police as it is.”
Iain Spittal, Deputy Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, said the force was committed to neighbourhood policing.
He said: “Neighbourhood policing is really important to our communities and really important to us being able to protect them from harm but it has to be different.”
In future, neighbourhood officers will be targeted in areas which have the biggest problems according to a range of data.
Cleveland Police will assign an extra 41 officers and staff into protecting vulnerable people including children at risk of sexual exploitation and managing sex offenders.
A new Vulnerable Exploited Missing and Trafficked Team will be created.
Changes to the way the force deals with incoming calls have also been announced.
Under the new model, 33 officers will be relocated from Cleveland Police’s two Incident Resolution Teams.
Non-emergencies will be dealt with by an Incident and Crime Management Team over the phone or by arranging an appointment at the local police station.
Dep Chf Con Spittal said it will mean a quick response by frontline officers to the highest priority incidents.
Dep Chf Con Spittal said when he joined he force, police on the streets was the biggest deterrent to deal with problems such as burglary and vehicle crime.
But he said times have changed and they need to change with them.
He said: “If we left the same number of resources in our Incident Response Teams and Neighbourhood Policing I would be leaving already vulnerable people at more risk of harm.
“I can’t afford to give the same level of commitment to all areas that we police.
“Everywhere in the force area will have dedicated police but they will be most visible and most focussed where there is most needs.”
Dep Chf Con Spittal stressed the changes were not driven just by funding cuts to the force but were linked directly to demand and a greater focus on prevention.
“People across Cleveland will continue to see officers, we will still provide a high level of service and we will still respond to calls for service based on the threat posed to communities.
“Our new model means that officers will be in the right place at the right time, based on the evidence we have gathered and the nature of the incidents taking place.
“I believe that this reconfiguration of local policing will enable Cleveland Police to deliver a service which is balanced between protection, intervention and prevention.
“The new structure will help the force to better protect vulnerable people from harm and prevent others from coming to harm.”
where the boots on the street will be lost
•33 officers to be relocated from Cleveland Police’s two Incident Resolution Teams. One covers Hartlepool and Stockton, the other Middlesbrough and to the south.
412 officers will remain.
•20 officers to be relocated from Neighbourhood Police Teams, nine of which are based in Hartlepool. It will leave 173 officers and 132 PCSOs.
Hartlepool’s coverage will be one Chief Inspector, shared with Billingham, Stockton and Thornaby, one inspector, three sergeants, 18 constables and 24 PCSOs.
Hartlepool’s Headland & Harbour ward and Victoria ward have been assessed as having the second highest level of need for neighbourhood policing.
The level is determined based on poverty, unemployment, levels of education and numbers of young people living in the area. Police then add data for crime and antisocial behaviour.
•38 police officers will join the protecting vulnerable people team, representing a £2 million investment.
Cleveland Police recorded an annual 34.8% rise in domestic abuse between March 2015 and 2015, compared to 20.8% for England and Wales.