WILTSHIRE Police has launched a recruitment campaign for up to 30 new Community Support Officers after numbers dwindled below the force’s minimum level.

It is the first time since 2011 that the force has recruited PCSOs and since then natural turnover has resulted in numbers dropping below the minimum requirement the constabulary deems necessary.

There are a total of 132 PCSOs in Wiltshire, with the target level set at 139, but the force said with many set to become regular officers in the near future, they want to proactively recruit 15 people in July and 15 more in October to the £19,311 role – on a par with the salary for constables.

PCSO Emma Turner joined the force two years ago following years as a charity worker and now works the Chiseldon and Worughton patch.

“It’s rewarding, challenging, something different every day and you are out in the community so it is never boring,” the 28-year-old said.

“We have local knowledge which is important for dealing with regular offenders and issues – people know our faces and names as people to come to if there is a problem and it shows we are more than just a uniform.”

Chief Constable Pat Geenty said: “I am delighted that we are in a position to recruit additional Police Community Support Officers. PCSOs provide essential support to police officers and make a real difference to local communities.”

But Wiltshire Police Federation chairman Mike White said: “It’s a difficult one – I think the public’s view is they would rather have fully warranted offficers and I would rather they were police officers as it would give us more flexibility.

“When they were first brought in it was seen as policing on the cheap but they are not really any cheaper – just perform a different function.

“That is not to take away from the fantastic work our PCSOs do and while they are police staff they are of course part of the same team and support neighbourhood teams very well.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson, said: “We are particularly encouraging applications from minority ethnic communities, as they are presently under-represented within Wiltshire Police.”

The role involves providing a visible patrolling presence, acting as an effective crime deterrent, especially with regard to anti-social behaviour. PCSOs do not have the same powers as a police officer therefore duties would not include arrests, investigating serious crimes or carrying out covert operations.

The window for applications opened yesterday and the closing date for applications is Tuesday, February 25 at 5pm.

To be successful, the force ask the applicant for previous experience of dealing with the public, a good standard of health and a full driving licence on appointment.

All applicants should also be aware that there are no minimum or maximum height requirements, no formal educational requirement and a number of convictions will mean a definite or likely rejection of your application.

For more information, visit the Wiltshire Police website www.wiltshire.police.uk, email resourcing@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk or call 01380 734132.