Cash crisis lets thieves escape

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The Independent Online
Complaints about brawls, domestic disputes and rowdy youths, often go ignored for hours by police in Derbyshire because of years of underfunding, a report revealed yesterday. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary also found that during some peak periods no officers were available to answer calls from the public.

In come cases the police took so long to respond to calls about people or vehicles acting suspiciously that by the time they arrived the suspects had disappeared. The lack of police officers and resources in Derbyshire has also meant that many more violent offenders and car thieves are escaping detection. The drug squad is so hard up that at the time of the inspection it only had pounds 300 to buy petrol for five months.

The inspectorate warned of evidence that the financial problems facing Derbyshire were getting worse. The problems are blamed on underfunding since the early 1980s, which has caused an increasing shortfall in officers and resources.

The Inspectorate says that the current pounds 88m budget from the Home Office would be more than adequate if the force was in a good financial position, but it is not enough to reverse the downward trend.

Derbyshire has been struggling to maintain its present police strength of 1,800, which has fallen as low as 1,768. People in Derbyshire had grown to accept the decline in standards, the Inspectorate said.

On a positive note there was a significant improvement in dealing with house burglaries which had dropped by 23 per cent. But using resources to deal with this crime had resulted in fewer robberies, assaults and car thefts being solved.

A spokeswoman for Derbyshire police force said: "The only way out is for the Home Office to give us more money."

David Maclean, the Home Office minister, said Derbyshire had been given extra funding for a number of years and an additional pounds 4m in 1996/97.

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