Victims of minor crimes will have to think twice before reporting offences to South Yorkshire Police as the force shrinks in size, the Chief Constable has warned.
And Chief Constable Med Hughes said officers may not be able to attend every report of crime as government budget cuts begin to bite.
Speaking exclusively to The Star, Mr Hughes said a £43 million reduction in government funding would hit South Yorkshire hard.
He said: “We do face the prospect, if demand for police services does not change, of finding it difficult to attend all calls.
“While the service will always respond to incidents of crime and anti-social behaviour, the public will need to think carefully in the future about what they report.”
Some 400 police officer posts and 800 civilian staff jobs must go to help the force balance its books and the Chief Constable warned it would be impossible for the police to endure such a “significant loss” without the public noticing the difference.
He said: “There’s no way I can sustain this loss of valued colleagues without it affecting the service we provide to the public.”
Mr Hughes said his force would have to be more response and crime-focused and possibly reduce some of the community work it does to free up officers to investigate crimes and patrol the streets.
He said: “Police services will operate differently – there will be nothing to notice in the next year or so, but four years hence South Yorkshire Police will look and appear a different police force.”
Mr Hughes said the force was determined to make best use of new technology, and new ways of policing to free up staff.
And he said he has a special project team looking at ways in which the force could possibly merge or share some services with partner organisations to cut costs.
The force is also expected to link up more with neighbouring forces to provide more regional police services.
He said: “Year on year we have been seen as one of the most financially-efficient forces in the way we spend our money wisely with Yorkshire thrift. I don’t think the public should fear the changes.
“Britain will look different, and I have concerns, but they are about the increasing burden on the police as other agencies shrink, as well as additional burdens in terms of regulation and governance of our activity. All of this can reduce the resources available to the front line. I can see we might have to make some tough choices three or four years down the line.”