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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Is the underfunding of police forces giving a free pass to criminals?

As a community politician I work very closely with the police locally in trying to deal with issues as they arise. Unfortunately, although we have three excellent PCSOs, the warranted PC who manages them is often taken away from the community for other duties. It is a sign of the times.

There are simply not enough police officers to cope with the workload, and the reliance on PCSOs to handle the community level policing is hampered by the failure to give them the powers to do the job as many of them, and others would like.

In South Wales for example, PCSOs do not have the power of arrest, nor are they able to stop vehicles. There are 20 additional powers which are being withheld from PCSOs that could be conferred on them under the relevant Act of Parliament.

Of course, the reliance on PCSOs in this way is far from desirable. As good and as dedicated as they are, they do not have the same training and investment as a warranted police officer. They are being used as a cut-price way to maintain a presence and a profile in local communities in the face of declining budgets.

The impact of those cuts is being felt most keenly in the detection of crime. As the Telegraph reports, at least one senior police officer believes that s ix in ten crimes are no longer fully investigated, warning that thefts are “screened out” if there are no witnesses, CCTV or forensics:

Ian Hopkins, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, one of Britain’s biggest police forces, said about 600 offences a day, primarily thefts, were not being pursued because "we don't have enough officers.”

He said budget cuts meant police had to prioritise more ruthlessly than ever after his force had lost about 2,000 officers in the past decade, taking his numbers down to 6,200.

“We record about a 1,000 crimes-a-day. Around 60 per cent are screened out very early on, so there is a very basic investigation undertaken then about 60 per cent are screened out,” Mr Hopkins told BBC Radio Manchester. The force sought to correct the figure almost 24 hours later to 43.4 per cent."

“You could spend weeks investigating some things and you will never get an outcome because the solvability factors are just not there.

“If your life is in danger, you've been seriously hurt, we will still turn up. If there's an immediate threat we will be there and we will be there in numbers really quickly.

“But if your shed's been broken into, your bike's stolen, your vehicle's broken into and there's no witnesses, there's no CCTV and there's no opportunity for forensics, we'll be screening that out really quickly.

“Your likelihood of a police officer turning up to deal with that is almost non-existent and that's where the public have really started to feel it. That bit worries me.”

“We are having to target our resources to some of the more serious stuff like serious and organised crime, counter-terrorism. You just don't have the capacity to deal with some of these things.

The Telegraph has followed this up with its own analysis of 10 police forces including the Metropolitan Police and Manchester. They have found that almost 500,000 offences were ditched within 24 hours of being reported, which if scaled up would equate to around two million:

Last year, the Metropolitan Police recorded almost 200,000 undetected crimes that were closed on the same day as they were recorded.

Of these, 77,976 were thefts, the most common “screened out” crime, which increased from 12,805 in 2015. The largest increase in “screened out” crimes was in robbery offences. There were just 23 undetected robbery crimes that were completed in under one day in 2015, but this had soared to 6,256 in 2018.

Over the past four years there has also been an increase nationally in violent and sexual crimes closed within 24 hours.

Sex offences recorded and then closed within a day rose from 703 to 1,605 from 2015 to 2018, while offences of violence against the person closed within 24 hours more than quadrupled from 11,927 to 44,548 in the same period.

All of this is very disturbing and requires further detailed scrutiny by Parliament. The Home Office cannot continue to get away with excusing these figures by pointing to an increase in funding, as they do at the end of this article.

Clearly, police do not have the resources they need to do their job, either that or they are misusing those resources. Isn't it MPs' job to find out which,and to put pressure on Ministers to sort it out? Perhaps they need to get their head out of the current Brexit mess and start to deal with these issues.
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