POLICE numbers in Castle Point could be halved as part of sweeping budget cuts, it is feared.

Reports have been made the eight constables in the borough could be slashed to four and its two sergeants cut to just one as Essex Police is set to undergo a major reshuffle in January.

The force has to cut a staggering £42.2million from its budget by 2015.

Concerns have been raised it will lead to officers being drafted in from other areas who are unfamiliar with the borough and its key crime trends.

One cop, who did not wish to be named, claims the policing levels in the borough will be “abysmal” following the shake-up.

He said: “It’s such a mess. Regarding the input for the armed robberies, to say the island will be given this number of people is an absolute pack of lies.

Canvey is almost turning feral again, we sorted all this out years ago and established the police run the island, not the baddies, now it’s the baddies again.”

The officer claims the reshuffle is due to the force’s “blueprint” causing a drop in its detection rate and forces becoming more focused on figures than officer numbers on the streets.

It comes after last week the Echo revealed how one in four neighbourhood officers in the county would be relocated to other patches next year and that nearby Hockley will lose its inspector and one of its experienced sergeants.

Joe Cooke, former Labour councillor for St George’s ward, said: “It was reported to me by a very concerned friend of mine that the officers in Castle Point will be dramatically scaled back come January.

“Now our borough may not have one of the highest crime rates but when you think of all the problems on Canvey recently you wonder how on earth they can let this happen. To think there could only be four officers covering our borough is ridiculous. People want to see officers on the streets. That is what deters criminals, and I dread to think what this could lead to.”

The borough has already seen two of its police stations close at South Benfleet and Hadleigh, and the opening hours of Canvey’s police station scaled back.

Last month, a crack team of 13 detectives, dedicated to solving the most serious crimes, had to be drafted to Canvey police station to help tackle a spate of robberies which had left shopkeepers and residents living in fear.

The Echo contacted Essex Police requesting figures to confirm how many officers operate in the borough now and how many will operate in the borough following the changes in January, but they refused to provide details.

An Essex Police spokesperson said: “In direct response to public and operational demands Essex Police will be implementing the next phase of its policing model in January 2013 in enhance resilience and align resources to where they are most needed.

“Great care has been taken in the development of these plans which come as the force continues to face financial challenges.

“These plans being taken forward have been thoroughly scrutinised and should lead to a more robust service. They will include the provision of new neighbourhood crime teams based at Rayleigh which will give 24/7 support working within the community in Castle Point as required.

“We believe this will enhance the local neighbourhood policing provision.

“Our practice known as borderless policing will continue with response and patrol officers responding according to who is nearest and the priority of the incident. The impact of these changes will be closely monitored.”