Having fewer officers to police rising crime is ‘deadly equation’, says crime commissioner

'We really are at a point now where it's extremely difficult to see how we can sustain what the public would call an acceptable level of policing'

Mattha Busby
Saturday 28 July 2018 18:58
West Midlands Police chief constable says force offers 'poor service'

Cuts to policing are endangering the public, a police and crime commissioner has said, as national organisations expressed their concern over declining police numbers with many forces receiving record numbers of emergency calls.

West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson warned that having fewer officers to deal with rising crime is a “deadly equation” as a catalogue of crimes such as modern-day slavery and gang crime which need to be investigated grows.

Recent figures have shown how various serious crimes are on the rise, with almost 40,000 knife and gun crimes involving a knife or a sharp instrument recorded last year, as homicides across England and Wales rose 12 per cent in 2018, to 701.

Meanwhile, police forces in England and Wales have less money in real terms than they did in 2010.

“The homicide team in the West Midlands is actually at bursting point at the moment dealing with the many serious incidents they’ve had,” he said, noting that homicides are going up rapidly.

“Add to that the sexual and domestic crime which has been much more important in the public’s mind in the last one or two years.

“We really are at a point now where it’s extremely difficult to see how we can sustain what the public would call an acceptable level of policing,” he told the BBC’s Today programme in an interview on Saturday.

Asked if cuts to police funding in recent years are endangering the public, he replied: “I think that’s the inescapable conclusion.

“And I leave your listeners to work this out. You know, we have far fewer officers, we’re not able to deal with all the incidents we could deal with. It’s a deadly equation, isn’t it?”

His remarks were echoed by the vice chair of the Police Federation, an organisation representing the majority of rank and file police officers, who said that policing is in a “critical condition”.

“Even government investing significant financial resource into policing right now won’t make an immediate difference,” Che Donald, who has previously criticised the 18 per cent fall in officers’ pay since 2009-10, told The Independent.

“This is because numbers have consistently been decimated over the last eight years. There is no magic box to go to and replace these officers.

“However, if moves are not made to reinvest in policing now, the time it will take to get policing out of critical condition will take significantly longer.”

In the West Midlands, the force’s chief constable said it had been forced to draw “the bar higher” on what it would investigate, although he stressed that this did not refer to offences such as serious assaults.

Accordingly, the “reality” of modern-day policing means the public are sometimes not getting the service they expect, he said.

“We may be dealing with it over the phone where they would like to see us, and I’m sorry about that but that is the reality of where policing is now,” he said.

“And on some occasions ... the service will not meet what I want it to do and it will not meet the response that the public absolutely will want when they’re at a time of vulnerability.”

According to the latest inspection of police forces in England and Wales, the public were being provided with a good service, however a National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman noted the strain they are under “as they deal with rising crime and demand that is more complex and an unprecedented terror threat with fewer officers”.

“This summer many forces have received record numbers of emergency and non-emergency calls,” he added.

The Home Office says total investment in the police system will be increased by more than £460m in 2018-19, with West Midlands Police receiving a cash increase of £9.9m compared with 2017-18.

However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that police budgets fell by 14 per cent between 2010-11 and 2014-15; while the BBC has reported that there was around a 20 per cent cut in police funding in real terms between 2010 and 2017.

Home secretary Sajid Javid used his first major speech after his appointment in May to offer an olive branch to rank-and-file personnel, following years of acrimony over the funding cuts and staffing reductions.

He pledged to provide “tools, the powers and the backup that you need to get the job done”, adding: “I am listening and I get it.”

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