Record low officer numbers have ‘serious implications’ for neighbourhood policing

Fears have been raised over the future of neighbourhood policing as officer numbers fell to the lowest level since comparable records began.

Jan 26, 2018

Fears have been raised over the future of neighbourhood policing as officer numbers fell to the lowest level since comparable records began. Home Office figures show there were 121,929 officers in England and Wales in September 2017, which is 930 fewer than the previous year. Police community support officer (PCSO) numbers also fell by nearly 500 to 10,056 – and more than 2,200 special constables were lost over the same period. Meanwhile, the amount of crime dealt with by forces has risen with major spikes in knife and gun offences. Ron Hogg, workforce planning lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: “Today’s police workforce figures, which show a further reduction of police officer numbers, will be of concern for police and crime commissioners, particularly at a time that we see a 14 per cent increase in recorded crime. “The reduction in the number of PCSOs may also have serious implications for the future of neighbourhood policing. “Whilst the enhanced flexibility on precept given to PCCs will obviously inject more cash into the system, the reality for many forces is that it will have a negligible impact on police officer numbers.” Officer numbers have dropped 16 per cent since peak levels in 2009 when there were 144,353 – the last time officer numbers increased. The new total is the fewest since comparable data began in 1996. However, the annual decline has slowed as fewer were lost than in each of the previous three years. West Midlands Police was hit hardest with a five per cent decrease, followed by West Mercia and Warwickshire forces at just under four per cent. Meanwhile, ranks in Humberside swelled eight per cent on the previous year, and Bedfordshire Police recruited more than six per cent more officers. Official crime figures published on Thursday (January 25) also revealed police recorded crime rose 14 per cent in the year to last September, while knife crime rose 21 per cent and gun crime by 20 per cent. Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh said: “These shocking figures reveal that the Tories have lost control in the fight against crime. “Police numbers have hit a historic low, recorded crime is rising faster than ever before and more and more criminals are walking free. It just shows you simply cannot trust the Tories to keep our communities safe.”

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