Public must be ‘eyes and ears’ of police

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COMMUNITIES have been asked to be ‘the eyes and ears’ of the police on the streets of South Yorkshire as funding cuts lead to a reduction in bobbies on the beat.

The call has come from Sheffield MP and former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who said police chiefs are faced with the ‘impossible task’ of making 20 per cents cuts - the equivalent of around £40 million by 2015 - without there being an increase in crime.

“If you cut backroom staff it is inevitable that there will be fewer officers on the streets because somebody still has to write up reports, prepare files for court and do all the paperwork,” he said.

“Over the last 15 years the drive has been to get police officers back on the streets supported by PCSOs, but once you have done the easy hits, such as reducing overtime and making efficiency gains, staff are going to be the next to go.

“My overall fear is that we will see a reverse of the massive reduction we have had in crime.”

He said the public also need to play their part in fighting crime.

“Communities across South Yorkshire have got a part to play - people have to be the extra eyes and ears that the police service needs,” he added.

He said communities need to see the police acting on information they pass on to help crack crimes.

Mr Blunkett, Labour MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, would like to see emergency services and councils exploring the possibility of sharing staff and departments to try to save cash.

He spoke out about the use of police cautions for dealing with offences after the latest figures showed that South Yorkshire Police doled out over 5,000 between 2008 and 2011.

“What I am concerned about is that if there is a backlog of cases waiting to get to court and combined with the enormity of the cost of time it takes for a case to reach court that officers may be tempted to issue cautions even when a court sentence might be more suitable,” he added.