Lancashire residents will be catching sight of more bobbies on the beat as they return to the streets.
It is thanks to householders willing to fork out more in £10.4m council tax payments for a visible police force, in the hope that it will make the county safer.
Clive Grunshaw Lancashires Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) meeting the taskforce in Chorley
Drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and burglary are among the issues that the local police officers will be tackling from the ground.
A total of 80 new officers have been recruited to the county-wide task forces.
“It will make a real difference,” said Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). “The idea of the task forces is that they will be dedicated to communities, to neighbourhoods so that engagement can be more proactive about tackling issues raised by the public about the things that are important to them.
“The funding here is through the increase in the council tax precept this year.
“The Government said we could put money back into the force through council tax. In the last 10 years that was the only way to invest back into police.
“What the public has said to us is that they want investment back into visible policing - back into something that will make a difference for them.
“So we will have nine police task teams spread throughout the county. Each area gets four or five officers depending on the geographical area they are covering.
“Thanks to support from the public, I’m pleased to say that for the first time since 2010 investment is being made into policing here in Lancashire with additional officers going into every district, focusing on reducing and preventing crime and dealing with the issues that matter most to people.
“We have always had great support from the people of Lancashire but they need to see something for their money and that’s what we are trying to do.”
The policing part of the council tax precept was raised by £24 a year for an average band D property, raising £10.4m this year.
The new task forces consist of 40 officers spread across the county, including a drone team of four officers.
Specialist target teams are also being strengthened with a total of 20 new officers to take on cross border crime and criminality, focusing on burglary and robbery.
The PCC is also adding 20 more detective investigators to the constabulary following public feedback to prioritise investigations around major crimes, child exploitation and domestic abuse.
Mr Grunshaw said: “They are desperately needed to make sure we get the convictions.
“We’ve had 20 homicides this year. These crimes are sucking at our resources.
“Drugs, homicides, child sex exploitation - we’ve got to make sure that we have the resilience to ensure that we can follow through to make sure we can get the convictions.”
The new drone team also operational across the force, with two drones paid for by the proceeds of crime, and a team of four officers funded by the council tax precept.
The technology will support policing operations including events, missing people and warrants.
Mr Grunshaw continued: “This is about reconnecting with our communities across Lancashire and getting back to proactive policing and dealing with community concerns.
“I really hope this is just the start of investment back into policing here in Lancashire and I continue to lobby Government to demand we get back our fair share of police officers that we have lost during austerity.”
Mr Grunshaw says that the constabulary in Lancashire has lost over 750 officers in the last 10 years and although raising the council tax precept allows for the 80 new officers he still wants to see direct funding coming from the Government.
“We want the Government to deliver on its promise that it has made,” he said, referring to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s pledge to recruit 6,000 new officers in the country within a year.
Mr Grunshaw added: “We want as big a slice as we can for Lancashire. We have been one of the forces that has been hit the most.
“This has got to come from money from the Government. It cannot be money coming through increasing the council tax.
“They are making these big, grand announcements. The demand is that they give us officers back.
“The task forces will make a real difference in terms of visibility but this has got to be only the start of things to come. This is not the end point.
“When we have had the reductions that we’ve had it has had an impact on the degradation of policing. Members of the public are really feeling it now. They are really concerned that crime is on the increase.
“They want to see police officers walking in their communities making it safer.”
Ch Supt Sam Mackenzie of Lancashire Constabulary, said: “The roll out of the Neighbourhood Policing task force will help us to continue tackling key crime hotspots and allow us to be more proactive in preventing the crimes that concern us all the most.”
“I expect their impact to be significant in every corner of the county.
“I believe these officers will make a real difference in our community and look forward to seeing the effects they have.”
Two thirds of respondents agreed to plan
Lancashire County councillors supported proposals to increase the police’s share of council tax in the county in January this year.
Almost two thirds of more than 4,000 respondents to a survey supported PCC Clive Grunshaw’s plan to add £24 to the council tax of a Band D property - with other bands increasing in the same proportion. In Lancashire, the largest number of properties are in Band A - their bills would rise by just over £16.
In a meeting with the Police and Crime Panel at the time the Labour commissioner criticised central government for announcing extra money for police forces across the country - but building a fixed council tax hike into the equation.
“I’d prefer [the increase] to be fully funded by the government, but given the opportunity to defend the service, it would be grossly negligent not to do that,” he said.
Residents were asked for their views on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s plans to increase council tax and how it should be spent. More than 4,600 people responded, including 1,400 contacted by a polling company as a representative sample.
++ 63 per cent of respondents across Lancashire agreed with the proposal to increase council tax
++ 73 per cent agreed in Chorley and Ribble Valley, the most supportive districts for the rise
++ 68 per cent agreed in South Ribble
++ 64 per cent agreed in Preston