Chief Superintendent Chris Bithell says it is inevitable residents in East Lancashire will see the way crimes are handled change over the coming months.

And he has admitted he has concerns over the number of police officers who will be available, adding the ‘cupboard is getting pretty bare’.

The county’s police force, having already weathered £60million of cuts, is now trying to decide where even deeper ‘savings’ can be made.

Mr Bithell warned no area was immune to cut backs, including departments like neighbourhood policing, which often ranks as a main priority.

Early action, which involves working with people from an early age to stop them becoming criminals, is also being reviewed.

Among other ideas being considered is marking up unmarked police cars with the Lancashire Police logo and having plain-clothed officers wear uniforms so that there appears to be a bigger police presence.

Mr Bithell said: “These are unprecedented times and we are facing the reality of such significant cuts.

“We have lost a lot of police officer posts and I am concerned about our resilience.”

Since 2009, Lancashire Police has lost 700 officers and between 400 and 500 police staff. No police officers have been made redundant, but posts have not been refilled when staff have retired or left.

Mr Bithell said: “Whilst police officers are being deployed to things like football matches or demonstrations, they are not doing something else and the cupboard is getting pretty bare.

“My concerns are about the number of police officers. At times we have enough officers, but at times we do not. However several years ago I would probably have given the same answer.”

The chief superintendant said the public’s expectations of what the police can do would also need to change. They no longer go to every crime reported and instead offer phone call appointments, if the victim agrees.

He said: “We also have some high level stuff going on like monitoring sex offenders and dealing with the most violent individuals which people might not be so aware of which is very important.”

Mr Bithell said the effects of the £60million cut in the policing budget had hit the force hard and called for a period of reflection before deciding where the next £20million could come from.

He said: “With a further £20million to find, we have to look at every option. We are now starting to look at neighbourhood policing and early action.

“Everything starts from the neighbourhood. It has been proven over the years in Lancashire that communities see them and they hold the officers dearly. But when we are facing such unprecedented cuts, we need to look at that.

“We are really looking at focusing on early action and if it can be delivered through neighbourhoods.

“We have PCSOs doing a certain role, but could they be trained a bit differently and do work around early action, bringing local policing together?”

Other proposals are to have plain car patrols marked up with the Lancashire Police logo as a way of increasing the police’s presence.

Already not all crimes that are reported are attended by officers and units like roads policing, which were run from the headquarters at Hutton, have been brought back into the local divisions.

Lancashire Police is now looking for comments and ideas from the public to help them prioritise the things communities find most important.

They plan to interact more closely on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube where residents can make their views known.

Mr Bithell said: “We are facing the most significant cuts we have ever had to consider and we are looking to restructure and reshape. But we are committed to delivering the best service we can and we are going to be as engaging as we can.

“It will be hard, but we will find a way through this.”

As part of the budget cutting plan, Pennine and Eastern divisions were merged in April. Mr Bithell, who now heads up the 317 square mile division, said there had been problems within the first few months.

He said: “The estate in Lancashire is 30 years out of date. Police stations are not in the right places and I think a divisional headquarters should be somewhere just off junction eight of the M65 and not at Greenbank.

“Some of the police stations we operate from, like Burnley, are not right on the motorway.

“This caused one or two problems. But we have to deal with what we have got. The staff are starting to knit together now and that is a real positive.”