A passionate plea for more community bobbies in Dorset – the eyes and ears of the community – has been made.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax spoke of his concerns of how frontline officers were now more likely to be behind a computer rather than on the streets, due to the changes in crimefighting and the different offences now being tackled.

But he said it was to the detriment of communities who see beat officers as 'approachable, contactable...and most importantly a deterrent to criminals."

New technology such as drones are not a replacement for the bobby on the beat, he stressed.

Mr Drax raised his concerns during a parliamentary debate about police funding.

He also spoke of his fears of Dorset 'losing its identity' in a merger with Devon and Cornwall Police, and concerns over future funding arrangements for the forces.

His comments about the lack of officers in communities follow an Echo story last week about a rise in crime in Dorset – amid a reduction in police officer numbers, including neighbourhood bobbies.

Community beat officers accounted for almost half of the police posts axed in Dorset over the past five years.

Dorset Police has had its central government funding cut by more than £16m over the last seven years.

Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has previously said how the force has made huge efficiency savings already and cutting any more would "put the delivery of policing at risk".

Concerns have been expressed in Weymouth about the lack of officers on the streets an dhow the community is suffering.

Mr Drax was among the MPs to address police minster Nick Hurd in the House of Commons yesterday.

He told the Echo afterwards: "I am concerned about the merger with Devon and Cornwall and although I recognise there will be savings I think there will be the loss of an identity for Dorset. There are different characteristics to our county and with the merger we will become part of a vast area.

"Also, the county system maintains a certain level of protection, resources given to the county are accountable to that county. If you have a merged force with resources given to a vast area, those resources can be suitably whittled down."

He added: "The types of crime police are fighting now are different and officers are doing a tremendous job but it means officers are being taken off the streets. I know the benefit of having a physical presence on the ground, getting all the intelligence back from the community and building relations.

"We are seeing fewer officers on the beat. We have frontline officers but they're not on the beat, they're behind a computer. The work they are doing is all very admirable, all very necessary but it's to the detriment of a very valuable asset.

"We shouldn't take our eyes off the ball; officers on the beat are as valuable as officers handling complex crimes. Even in today's world with all the technology, nothing beats the officer on the beat. The intelligence they get from the public, the reassurance they give, you don't get that from a drone."