POLICE in Oxfordshire could soon be wearing helmets again to boost their visibility – but critics have dismissed the move as ‘street theatre'.

Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld wants to see the return of the helmet, which was scrapped in 2009, to heighten the presence of officers on the street.

However, others have said the £30,000 cost of the scheme would be better spent funding a new community support officer.

Police in Reading are currently running a trial of the helmet scheme which, if successful, will be rolled out into Oxfordshire.

Each helmet costs £30 and the price of rolling it out across the Thames Valley is expected to be around £30,000.

In a recent meeting of the police and crime panel, Mr Stansfeld was questioned on the move by Oxford city councillor Tom Hayes, who suggested that, for around the same cost, the commissioner could fund a new PCSO role.

Mr Stansfeld said: “I think increasing visibility across the entire Thames area is worth the cost of slightly less than one PCSO – and I think it will make a huge difference.

"Out of the four large forces in the country - ourselves, West Midlands, Manchester and London - we were the only ones to give up helmets."

Mr Hayes, board member for community safety at the council, was left unconvinced. He has pointed out the city council is currently considering budget proposals, which include spending £70,000 to fund police community support officer roles within the police.

The cash, which would provide two PCSO positions for one year, is being put forward amid concerns over a lack of police presence causing increased drug use and dealing on Oxford's streets.

Conversely, while the police budget offers a net gain in officers and police staff over the next three years, there will also be a reduction of 14 PCSO roles.

Mr Hayes said: “You don’t get visible policing by requiring the very few police officers we have to put on helmets, you get it by putting officers on our streets.

“When £30,000 could nearly pay for an extra PCSO at the very time this budget is losing 14 PCSOs across the Thames Valley, you have to ask why the commissioner is indulging romanticised memories of policing and investing in these helmets of all things."

Helmets were scrapped in 2009 following a uniform review by the force, and Mr Hayes, who suggested the PCC wants to 'take us back to the 1950s', believes they belong resigned to the past.

He continued: "We all want to achieve the highest visibility for police. But the public don't need the commissioner to make it easier to spot officers on the street.

"Their uniforms are enough. The public simply want more officers and the commissioner should be focussing on the substance of their demands - not obsessing over street theatre."