Sheffield MP and former Home Secretary David Blunkett said he was ‘deeply worried’ by new figures showing the number of police officers has dropped.
“By the time I left office at the end of 2004 we’d created in just three years an additional 15,000 police officer posts across England and Wales, and 6,000 Police Community Support Officers,” he said.
“I know this was reflected in the years that followed in substantial increased numbers in South Yorkshire – with a consequent massive drop in crime.
“I’m deeply worried that over the last three years this investment has now gone into reverse and, with it, the number of officers available.
“I know that Shaun Wright, the new Police and Crime Commissioner, is doing everything he can to maintain numbers, despite the cut of a quarter in the funding available over the next three years.”
Neil Bowles, chairman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation which represents rank and file officers, said he fears apparent reductions in reported crime in South Yorkshire could actually be down to people opting against contacting the police rather than a genuine drop in crime.
“Are the public not reporting incidents because they know we can’t cope?” he said. “Because I can’t believe crime is still going down.”
He added: “Maybe also insurance excesses are too much for people these days to make a claim, so they don’t bother reporting things.”
Mr Bowles said the Police Federation nationally wants the public to have their say on what they want from their police service.
“In the last 26 years there have been hundreds of new offences and acts of parliament which we have had to adapt to, and in all that time we have stopped doing only two things - escorting abnormal loads, and taking in stray dogs.
“We are expected to deal with everything.
“The Home Secretary wants us to be crime fighters but I would say that takes up just 20 per cent of our role.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “The force has seen a reduction in the most serious violent offences, reflected in Sheffield being named the safest city in England in the UK Peace Index.
“This data demonstrates that, with fewer officers, South Yorkshire Police is not only maintaining but improving the service it provides to the public.”