THE number of PCSOs in Bournemouth is believed to have halved in less than a decade - but top police officers say the role is "highly-valued".

An officer who has asked not to be named told the Daily Echo there will soon be only eight PCSOs covering Bournemouth - down from 16 in recent years.

Police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill said he is committed to retaining the role in Dorset.

However, it was last week announced that Norfolk Police is set to be become the first force in Britain to scrap all of its community support officers amid falling budgets.

The constabulary is proposing to axe 150 PCSOs, which it said have "limitations" as they are "not permitted to arrest, process or interview prisoners".

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Cooper of Dorset Police said: "As an organisation we see real value in our neighbourhood policing teams.

"We are currently reviewing our approach to understand the demands placed on neighbourhood teams with a view to improving our overall policing response in the current climate, while ensuring that we have the right resources in the right places.

"PCSOs are – and will remain to be – a highly valued role, making a valuable contribution to community engagement and building local intelligence.’’

The anonymous officer said PCSOs leaving their roles - either to become PCs or to find new work outside of the force - are not being replaced, and no PCSO recruitment drives are planned.

Community support officers may be redeployed through application for other roles within the force, it is believed.

Mr Underhill said: "Dorset Police is currently undertaking a review to ensure we have the right resources in the right places to manage threat, risk and harm.

"There is real value in public engagement undertaken by PCSOs within local neighbourhood policing teams and I have pledged to retain the role in Dorset.”

PCSOs provide a visible patrolling presence and act as a deterrent for criminals.

The officers often visit schools, community organisations and local authorities to tackle anti-social behaviour and safeguard vulnerable adults and children.

Earlier this year, the Daily Echo reported that a widescale review of the role is currently underway in the county.

It was claimed that PCSOs working in both rural areas and towns may take on additional roles as statement takers due to a shortage in warranted officers.