Crime falls at least 10% in half of police force areas despite stringent budget cuts

Crime plummets by as much as 22% in some areas DESPITE savage budget cuts Crime down by at least 10% in 19 of 43 force areas in England & WalesComes as police and government clash over cuts and 'Plebgate' affairCrime plummets by 22% in Nottinghamshire and 18% in Northumbria

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UPDATED:

07:48 GMT, 31 December 2012

The rift between the Government and police is poised to deepen as crime continues to fall despite unprecedented cuts in officer numbers.

Ministers seized on figures which reveal that crime has fallen steeply over the past two years across England and Wales.

The number of recorded offences fell by at least 10 per cent in 19 out of 43 forces as budgets were slashed by an average of just under 10 per cent.

Crime falls and police cuts: The figures come amid growing hostility between the Government and officers (file)

Crime falls and police cuts: The figures come amid growing hostility between the Government and officers (file)

The provisional figures, the latest official statistics available, show large falls in crime in the two years to June 2012.

Some of the largest drops were
recorded in Nottinghamshire (21.7 per cent), Northumbria (17.6 per
cent), West Midlands (13.3 per cent) and Hertfordshire (13.6 per cent).
Crime rose in only one area, Devon and Cornwall, where it increased by
just 2.2 per cent.

When the Coalition came to power it said it would reduce government police grants by 20 per cent over the four years to 2015.

As a result the number of officers in
England and Wales will fall by 16,000 from 140,000 and pay and pensions
are being shaken up.

The statistics are a welcome boost to
David Cameron and colleagues fighting to reform policing and squeeze
better value out of the 14billion budget. Senior Coalition figures will
feel vindicated by the figures as they prepare to force a further 3 per
cent cut on police.

Going down: These overall figures from the Office for National Statistics show how total offences both under the Crime Survey for England and Wales and recorded by forces fell by 6 per cent in 2011/12

Going down: These overall figures from the Office for National Statistics show how total offences both under the Crime Survey for England and Wales and recorded by forces fell by 6 per cent in 2011/12

Privately, some have accused the
Police Federation, which represents frontline officers, of
‘scaremongering’ by claiming cuts would lead to ‘Christmas for
criminals’.

Home Secretary Theresa May will refer
to falling levels of offending when she sets out her views on proposed
reforms including a reduced police starting salary and the introduction
of skills-based pay and compulsory redundancy.

The clash comes amid a lingering row
over the Plebgate affair, which threatens to test relations between
police and politicians even further.

JUST EIGHT MINUTES AN HOUR ON THE BEAT

Police
spend only eight minutes in every hour on frontline duties despite an
unprecedented drive to slash paperwork, it was claimed yesterday.

Officers are on patrol for only 12 per cent of their working day and spend the rest of the time on backroom jobs, research found
It
means that an officer will spend just one hour and 25 minutes in a
‘visible’ position where he or she could help the public during a
typical 12-hour shift.

Researchers
found the total cost for each officer is around 90,000 a year. Because
of the huge amount of time spent tackling paperwork and other back
office tasks, it would cost taxpayers around 792,000 to keep a single
‘visible’ beat filled for a year.

The
figures from the Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign group show the amount of
time spent on patrol has dropped from 15 per cent in 2004/5 to the
current level of 12 per cent.

They will make unhappy reading for politicians who want police chiefs to get officers to spend more time on the streets.

Within
hours of taking office in May 2010, Home Secretary Theresa May said
getting police out from behind their desks was her top priority.

MORE THAN ONE IN TEN HAVE A SECOND JOB

Police
could face a crackdown on second jobs after figures revealed more than
one in ten officers and staff supplement their income by moonlighting.

The
number of officers who registered extra work with their forces has
soared by 19 per cent from 19,329 to 23,043 over the past year,
according to figures gathered by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of
Constabulary. The total workforce was 201,575.

Among
the roles undertaken by off-duty officers and staff were vicar,
pallbearer, undertaker, ski instructor, pole-dancer and ice cream
salesman.

Dozens more
cash in on their skills by offering training in self-defence or firing
Taser stun guns, which can only be used by the police and military.

Police
officers and staff are allowed to undertake second jobs but must
register what they are doing with their chief constable. Permission is
nearly always granted unless the job clashes with police work or risks
bringing the force into disrepute.

The
number of investigations into potential breaches of the rules has
tripled amid fears the roles could jeopardise investigations or damage
public confidence.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir
Bernard Hogan-Howe has pledged a ‘ruthless search for truth’ over the
Downing Street clash, which led to Andrew Mitchell resigning as chief
whip.

He admits swearing at police during
an altercation after they refused to let him ride his bicycle through
the main gates, but denies calling them ‘plebs’.

Police Minister Damian Green said the
latest figures ‘prove what we have said all along’. He added: ‘It is
possible to reduce police spending while maintaining and even improving
the service given to the public.

‘Thanks to the leadership of chief
constables and the efforts of police officers, crime has fallen by 10
per cent under this government. Police reform is working and crime is
falling.’

Pleb-gate wrangle: Andrew Mitchell was forced to resign as chief whip after clashing with police manning the gates of Downing Street

Pleb-gate wrangle: Andrew Mitchell was forced to resign as chief whip after clashing with police manning the gates of Downing Street

But Steve Williams, who takes over as
Police Federation chairman next month, said the full impact of police
cuts may not yet have been felt. He said: ‘These figures are testament
to the hard work and dedication displayed by police officers.’ Public
confidence in police has been hit by a ‘dangerous cocktail’ of
high-profile controversies, a senior MP said yesterday.

Keith Vaz said the institution of the
‘great British bobby’ has been shaken by Plebgate and revelations about
police behaviour over the Hillsborough disaster.

The Labour MP, who chairs the Commons
home affairs select committee, said policing faces a ‘defining moment’
and called for a Royal Commission to draft a new set of principles for
how the police should operate.

It's no wonder the public are losing faith, writes former Chief Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police Dai Davies
Expert commentary: Dai Davies says the use of resources is more crucial than the size of the budget in the fight against crime

Expert commentary: Dai Davies says the use of resources is more crucial than the size of the budget in the fight against crime

When the Coalition embarked on its austerity programme to tackle Britain’s colossal fiscal deficit, Labour warned in doom-laden terms that cuts in police budgets would lead to soaring crime and public disorder.

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, claimed austerity would lead to ‘Christmas for criminals’.

But the forecasts were wrong. Far from undermining the work of police, the cuts have in fact seen Britain become a safer place.

This just proves what I have always argued: in the fight against crime, the use of resources is more crucial than the size of the budget.

In my career, I served as head of the Royal Protection Squad and as Chairman of the Police Superintendents’ Association in London.

And that experience taught me the importance of efficiency over mere numbers.
That is why I believe the Coalition is right to press on with reform of our police forces.

As the Home Office figures imply, there is far too much waste and inefficiency, reflected in outdated working practices, enfeebled management and excessive bureaucracy.

Some police have lost sight of their central purpose: to protect the public. Instead of serving those who pay their wages, they can end up looking after their own narrow interests.

The publication of the figures yesterday has thrown the focus once more on the running battle between government and police, which exploded into life in the Plebgate affair that cost Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell his job.

He was, of course, accused of swearing at officers in Downing Street and calling them ‘plebs’. After a month of intense pressure, the Police Federation got their scalp.

But last week it emerged that an email giving an eye-witness account of the confrontation came from a police officer who hadn’t even been present: round two to the Government.

Over the weekend damaging stories have emerged which can only give further impetus to reform. The revelation that 23,000 police staff have second jobs does not surprise me. Time and again, I have come across officers with second jobs in the ‘pseudo-security’ business.

What raises my eyebrows is that some seem to think they can combine police work with being undertakers or pole dance teachers.

This eagerness to take on extra jobs shows how under-worked some personnel are.

When I was in the force, I worked up to 12 hour days, sometimes six days a week. I was too exhausted to take on any other duties.

But I wouldn’t have thought it right to serve another master: policing is meant to be vocation, not just a job. A job on the side is bound to interfere with an officer’s commitment – indeed, there are suspicions that shift patterns are being organised in some stations to accommodate moonlighting staff.

Thinning blue line: Despite budge cuts, the country is getting safer which proves the fight against crime depends on the quality of policing not the quantity. (File photo)

Thinning blue line: Despite budge cuts, the country is getting safer which proves the fight against crime depends on the quality of policing not the quantity. (File photo)

Outside employment can mean staff are not available for sudden emergencies. Nor is there any justification for it: police enjoy reasonable pay, pensions, holidays, career progression and conditions which are the envy of those in the private sector.

Just as worrying is a study which shows police are ‘visible and available to the public’ just 11.8 per cent of the time. The rest of the working day is taken up with paperwork, meetings, court appearance, and backroom duties.

It is a huge misuse of resources, and a prime reason why the public is losing faith in police is that they rarely see bobbies on the beat.

The retreat to the station is all the more reprehensible when forces now employ a huge support army to take away the bureaucratic burden from front-line officers.

The vast expansion of support staff seems to have done nothing to free up more officers to go out on patrol.

Time on their hands: The eagerness of a proportion of officers to take on extra jobs shows how under-worked some personnel are

Time on their hands: The eagerness of a proportion of officers to take on extra jobs shows how under-worked some personnel are

This is partly because of the disastrous introduction by the Labour Government of Police Community Support Officers.

With just a fraction of the powers of sworn constables and little of the experience, these ‘plastic bobbies’ have been a hopelessly inadequate replacement.

Just as regrettably, the growing reliance on PCSOs encourages a spirit of self-importance among officers who are taught to believe daily patrolling is beneath them.

The police must bring back their traditional ethos of serving the public, not themselves. Too much of the Police Federation’s rhetoric smacks of naked self-interest.

When the Metropolitan Police was created in 1829, the first Commissioner Sir Richard Mayne said the force had to demonstrate ‘absolute impartial service to the law’, and must retain the support of the public at all times.

‘The police are the public and the public are the police,’ he said, stressing the ideal of policing by consent. That ethos should be as relevant today as it was nearly two centuries ago.