OPINION: South Yorkshire is being robbed with a cut-price police force

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Whether you’re a fan of numbers or not, few things can quite divide opinion like a set of statistics.

That’s why we’ve set out all the stats on robbery across South Yorkshire since 2011 over on pages 8-9 today, so you can find out what’s going on where you live and judge for yourself.

The raw numbers show a gradual increase from 2011 to 2015, with a spike in 2014.

That makes a drop-year on-year, but a nine per cent increase comparing 2011 and 2015.

South Yorkshire Police’s crime commissioner, Alan Billings, says the year-on-year drop is proof the figures are going in the right direction, but 2015 still had more robberies than 2011 and 2012.

However you read the crime figures, we can all agree that this kind of offence needs to be eradicated as far as is possible, as soon as practicable. Robbery is a serious crime.

It isn’t just the taking of someone’s things, like breaking into a car when no-one’s looking, as bad as that is.

It’s a personal, close-up offence in which robbers demand items or cash, usually face to face and very often with the threat of violence, and as a result every robbery has a lasting impact on each victim.

Here are some more numbers: £50 million of cuts to South Yorkshire Police from central government since 2010 and a £10.5m budget black hole to plug by April 2016.

This, in a context of Hillsborough inquests, Rotherham and the resultant cost of policing far-right protests in the town.

How can we reasonably expect South Yorkshire Police to turn the tide on violent crime – or indeed, any type of crime, from car break-ins to CSE – if police budgets continue to be cut to the bone?

Reported crime has fallen over the last few years; indeed, in 2014 The Star reported that crime in Sheffield had dropped to its lowest level in 25 years – despite cuts having been made to the force.

But overall crime rose in 2015, fuelled in part by the Rotherham scandal’s knock-on effect and a surge in sex crime reporting.

And surely crime will continue to rise if the police are expected to make less money do the same job.

It’s time that the government realised the value of local policing and reached into its pocket to put more bobbies on the beat.

Cut by cut, by nickel and dime, South Yorkshire is being robbed of its police force – and we have to stand up and say enough is enough – before it’s too late.