CAMPAIGNERS fear they could be left with fewer bobbies on the beat following changes to neighbourhood policing in some parts of south Essex.

Essex Police have revealed changes which means one PC, called a neighbourhood specialist officer, will be left to cover two council wards, supported with a team of PCSOs.

Until now, every council ward has had a dedicated PC tackling crime. Brian Guyett, of Hockley Residents’ Association, said he was concerned about the impact of reducing the number of community officers in each area.

He added: “At the end of the day this all comes back to the Government budget cuts.

They’ve got fewer people, how thick do you spread the butter? “You can’t have everything. It’s changing focus and it’s going to have an impact, basically the streets of Essex are going to be patrolled by PCSOs .”

He was particularly shocked to see the Essex Police website updated to say there will now only be one named neighbourhood specialist officer covering both Hockley and Rochford, previously there was one for each town.

The same has happened in the Wakering and Ashingdon/Canewdon areas. There are two officers dedicated to the Rayleigh and Hullbridge areas between them, but one is currently on secondment to headquarters.

However, Basildon, Southend and Castle Point remain unchanged. T

he idea behind neighbourhood specialist officers is that they become the recognisable face’of the ward.

But Mr Guyett said there had been a steady stream of officers over the last two years, so residents never get to build a relationship with them.

Assistant chief constable, Maurice Mason, said: “Like any highly professional organisation working in a fast moving environment, our detailed working practices will constantly evolve to reflect best policing practice.

“Indeed, it is imperative that the force continues to monitor and review our performance and make informed changes to enhance further the service we provide to the people of Essex.

He said this would involve creating neighbourhood crime teams.

They will be backed up by small teams of prisoner processing officers to progress investigations, and handle suspects through custody.

The idea is these prisoner processors will give neighbourhood officers more time to be visible in their wards.

He added: “This amalgamation will enhance the ability of locally based officers to investigate and reduce crime and antisocial behaviour. “The neighbourhood crime teams will be supported by specially trained police officers and PCSOs to tackle ongoing local community issues.”