MPs urged to rethink police cuts as recession sparks rise in crime

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The Independent Online

Burglars and petty theives have been particularly prolific in the last year, in a trend that suggests crime statistics are reflecting the economic situation.

Annual crime statistics released by the Home Office yesterday showed a 14 per cent rise in domestic burglaries, while a separate police study showed a 10 per cent jump in mobile phone, wallet and purse snatching from pubs and homes.

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, said the increase was likely in times of economic hardship.

"In the context of a recession where a lot of people are finding it much more difficult to make ends meet, it is natural that many will turn to crime," he said.

With police forces facing cuts of 20 per cent as part of Home Secretary Theresa May's austerity drive, there are also concerns over forces' ability to cope with criminals.

Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, said: "Now is not the time for the Government to take risks with community safety by cutting over 12,000 police officers. People want crime to fall further and the Government is doing nothing to help.

"Theresa May has set out no strategy for cutting crime and she is making it harder for the police to do their jobs."

Overall, there was a slight drop in the number of crimes, with an estimated 9.6 million in 2010/11, compared with 9.5 million the previous year. However, Home Office statisticians said that "sustained reductions" in crime seen in the mid-1990s and mid-2000s have begun to slow down.

The British Crime Survey figures also showed a 6 per cent rise in violent crime, fuelled by a 35 per cent rise in domestic violence and a 38 per cent rise in assaults with minor injuries.

Three quarters of all domestic violence incidents involved repeat victims, the figures showed.

Reacting to the crime statistics, Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the Government had been warned that staff shortages would have an adverse effect on property crime.

"In May 2009 we warned the Government that an additional 2,000 police officers would be required over the following three years to maintain the current level of service and we predicted a rise in property crime as the recession deepens," he said.

"Today's statistics must serve as a stark warning to the Government – stop, think and urgently reconsider the 20 per cent cut to the police service."

The Crime and Security Minister, James Brokenshire, said: "We have consistently argued that crime is too high and that is why our policing reforms are so urgently needed.

"We want to make the police more accountable to the public they serve and ensure that local policing priorities are focused on what local people want, not on what central government thinks they want."