Police cuts 'will hit front line and increase crime'

7 Jan 11
Cuts to police funding are likely to lead to significant frontline reductions and a surge in crime, a think-tank warned today.
By Lucy Phillips

7 January 2011

Cuts to police funding are likely to lead to significant frontline reductions and a surge in crime, a think-tank warned today.

Research by Civitas found that countries with fewer police were likely to have a higher crime rate than those with larger numbers of officers.

The think-tank compared numbers of police officers and numbers of recorded offences per 100,000 of the population across all European countries.

With a 20% reduction in police funding for England and Wales over the next four years, starting with a 6% cut in the national funding grant this year, Civitas concluded that there are likely to be ‘dramatic’ reductions in police officer numbers. This would lower the chance of criminals being caught and sanctioned, making crime less risky and more attractive for potential offenders and pushing up crime rates, the report says.

Report author Nick Cowen wrote: ‘While police numbers and resources are far from the only contributor to police effectiveness, it seems highly unlikely that the swingeing cuts now being enacted will be made without significantly decreasing detection rates... It is possible that recent falls in crime will be halted or even reversed. Members of the public are at greater risk of crime in the coming year.’

The Police Federation of England and Wales said the Civitas report confirmed its ‘worst fears’ that cuts to police funding would lead to ‘a more dangerous society’.   

Federation vice-chair Simon Reed said: ‘This government cannot ignore the direct correlation between police officer numbers and the crime rate and must urgently reconsider the level of cuts the police service is facing over the next four years.’  

But policing minister Nick Herbert rejected the findings, claiming there was not a ‘simple link’ between crime levels and police numbers and that forces would be able to make savings of more than £1bn a year without affecting the front line.   

The Civitas report came as Britain’s largest police force said there could be 1,181 fewer Metropolitan Police officers by March 2011, compared with a year earlier, as a result of a recruitment freeze and drive not to replace those leaving the service.

Officer numbers in the capital were predicted to fall from 33,318 in March 2010 to 32,137.

The fall is part of the Met’s plan to cope with a £100m cut to its budget next financial year.

Deputy commissioner Tim Godwin said the services would be looking to protect the front line through measures designed to boost productivity, such as removing officers from work related to training and human resources

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