Death of the beat bobby - cuts are killing neighbourhood policing, Police Federation warns

Posted On: 
20th May 2015

Police Federation press release

Cuts to the police force budgets are sounding the death knell for the traditional bobby on the beat, the Police Federation of England and Wales has warned.

Results of a poll of all forces in England and Wales reveals the cuts are in danger of forcing officers to retreat from their communities with officers only able to concentrate on responding to emergencies.

This, the Police Federation warns, could have the effect of driving a wedge between officers and the communities they serve, making criminals more difficult to convict and increasing the risk of crime rates soaring.

The survey shows that since 2010, 33 out of the 43 forces in England and Wales – 70 per cent – have scrapped, reduced or merged their dedicated neighbourhood policing teams which used to be made up of police officers and PCSOs.

The poll shows that forces are predominantly making changes in two ways:

Nearly half (19) have merged their neighbourhood policing teams with their emergency response teams or other departments, meaning neighbourhood officers who were once able to build links with communities in order to tackle criminals, are now having to rush from one emergency to another or carry out pre-arranged visits to investigate crime, for instance. Some of these forces have also cut the numbers of neighbourhood policing officers.

A total of 14 forces have just cut, or are planning to cut, numbers in their neighbourhood teams which means fewer officers will be working in their communities.

Just eight forces currently have no plans to alter their neighbourhood policing while two – Cheshire and City of London – say they have increased numbers.

The figures have been revealed on the eve of the Police Federation of England and Wales’s annual conference which is due to hear a keynote speech from Home Secretary Theresa May, her first since being reappointed in the post.

In his keynote speech today (Wednesday, 20 May), Steve White, chair, Police Federation of England and Wales, will tell the conference: ‘Cuts really do have consequences and we see them every day.

‘We are down to the bone and having to decide – neighbourhood policing or 999 calls? Neighbourhood policing is the foundation of local confidence, trust and reassurance in communities that the police are there; that we will be there when needed, policing with their consent.

‘Neighbourhood policing – the source of so much information that stops the public from becoming victims of crime. Neighbourhood policing keeps people safe. Neighbourhood policing prevents terrorist attacks on our country.

‘And now neighbourhood policing is just one of the endangered species in the new streamlined barren policing landscape. Less than a third of people say they now see police officers on patrol in their local community. And as our research demonstrates, that is a figure that is falling fast.

‘A generation of young people is growing up never seeing their local police unless they are unfortunate enough to experience a serious crime. Is that the type of remote, faceless police service the public deserves?

‘Policing is about building relationships, not statistics – not computer says no, not Chancellor says no.’

Other findings include:

In the country’s biggest force, the Metropolitan Police, neighbourhood team numbers have been slashed from a high point of one sergeant, two constables and three PCSOs in every ward to a point now where one sergeant covers two to three wards sometimes with no constables and sometimes with no PCSOs. All new recruits go first to neighbourhoods with no knowledge of frontline policing and learning on their feet – described as ‘the blind leading the blind’.

Dedicated neighbourhood teams in West Midlands Police have been cut by approximately 50 per cent with officers returning to emergency response or other roles.

From July, Greater Manchester Police is creating new style teams which combine neighbourhood policing, response and public protection teams – fears remain this will mean neighbourhood officers being absorbed almost exclusively into responding to emergency calls and the time they spend on the beat and problem solving will ‘evaporate’.

Sussex Police are due to lose 500 out of the approximately 1800 officers currently working in neighbourhood, response, custody and CID.

Home Office figures show that, since 2010, the service has lost a total 17,000 officers and 17,000 police staff – effectively scrapping the equivalent of nine entire forces stretching from Devon and Cornwall to Bedfordshire.

Latest crime statistics published by the Office for National Statistics for the year ending December 2014, show violent crime has risen 21 per cent, sexual offences 32 per cent and public order offences up 14 per cent. Sexual offences are at the highest level ever recorded.