South Yorkshire Police boss blames cuts to officer numbers for rise in violent crime

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has blamed cuts in officer numbers for a rise in violent crime over recent years.

By Claire Lewis
Thursday, 5th September 2019, 9:25 am
Updated Thursday, 5th September 2019, 9:25 am
Dr Alan Billings
Dr Alan Billings

Dr Alan Billings spoke out following Chancellor Sajid Javid’s spending review yesterday, in which he announced funding to support the recruitment of the first wave of 20,000 new officers – 6,000 bobbies to be shared among the 43 forces in England and Wales next year.

The remaining 14,000 officers will be recruited over the following two years, backed by government funding, and will be additional to officers hired to fill existing vacancies.

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Dr Billings said: “The penny finally seems to have dropped that there is a link between police numbers and levels of crime.

“The government inherited falling crime from the last Labour government and proceeded to cut police numbers. They were warned that eventually this would result in higher levels of crime – but they chose to ignore those warnings.

“The result has been an increase in crime in recent years, especially violent crime. All the urban centres have been affected by that, including South Yorkshire.”

He added: “The Chancellor seems to have passed over the fact that much of this announcement was about trying to undo the damage that Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition and Conservative governments have done over the past nine year of austerity.

“The 20,000 police officer posts simply takes police numbers back to where they were a decade ago, despite the fact that the population has grown, and crime has gone up and become more complex.”

Dr Billings added: “The chancellor spoke about Home Office spending increasing by 6.3 per cent. He did not say funding would increase. It is not clear, therefore, whether paying for 20,000 extra police is going to be by way of Home Office grant or whether the government expect substantial hikes in council tax to pay for them, at least in part.

“I have made it clear that the people of South Yorkshire cannot afford further big increases and it would be unfair to shift the burden of paying for a public service as important as policing onto hard-pressed council taxpayers.

“Extra police are welcomed but the funding has to include everything else needed to pay for them - the cost of training, uniforms and equipment, technology, and other support services.

“I welcome additional funding for on-line child sexual exploitation, because so much of grooming has now moved off the streets and onto the internet, where children are just as vulnerable, if not more so. But a more holistic approach would include more resources going into preventing children getting into difficulties in the first place.

“The same is true of prison places. It would be far better to put some extra resources into stopping people committing crime in the first place – as we will be doing with many partners through the Violence Reduction Unit that we launched in South Yorkshire this week.

“I also welcome the fact that government realises that extra police will mean more prosecutions and that means more Crown Prosecutors will be needed to deal with increased trials.

“I do welcome extra funding for youth services – though they have been decimated over the past decade and it will take time to re-build what has been lost or savaged.

“I welcome funding to tackle homelessness, because the problems of homeless people takes up a lot of police time that should be spent on serious crime.

“I welcome the additional funding for places of worship to improve their security. One of the by-products of Brexit has been an increase in levels of hate crime directed towards minority groups, with attacks on synagogues, mosques and churches.”