Jo Cox writes a column every month for the Dewsbury Press. This is the column for October, published today.
Reducing the number of police officers on the streets amid a backdrop of rising violent crime is a “massive gamble” the Government should not be taking.
We should pay attention when West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, the man ultimately responsible for local policing, warns that public safety will be at risk if further cuts are implemented.
By next March there will be 1,275 fewer police officers locally than there were in 2010 – a reduction of 22 per cent. Violent crime has risen in West Yorkshire as it has nationally, by 50 per cent.
It is not unreasonable to conclude the two things are linked.
But these further cuts will mean far more than just fewer police on our streets.
Community safety – the partnership between the police and the council – will see its budget slashed, from both ends. Neighbourhood policing teams, which have been hugely successful and popular, could be dismantled. We have been well served by our neighbourhood policing teams locally but that valuable, proactive and community led service looks as though it will be replaced by an entirely reactive one, due to lack of officers.
The consequences of this aren’t just limited to serious crime, as local people and in particular local business owners are noticing. I am hearing about a rise in anti-social behaviour, low level crime and nuisance. Business owners in town centres report these sorts of problems more and more and their experience is that nothing is being done to tackle it.
It may not be as serious but such crime is no less a blight on local people trying to go about their day or making a living. If we lose the NPTs and suffocate the community safety work then these sorts of issues will get more and more prevalent and more serious.
There is no doubt ideology and not necessity drives these cuts but there also seems to be a deeper issue at play on policing.
I spoke during a debate instigated by Labour in Parliament last week, raising the point that only 20 per cent of a police officer’s job these days relates to recorded crime, while 80 per cent relates to safeguarding and vulnerability – resource intensive missing person cases, trafficking, child sexual exploitation and cases relating to mental health.
As well as not understanding the realities of a police officer’s role, the Home Office doesn’t seem to be able to sort out the funding. Its hunger for cuts has resulted in a calculation error so monumental that changes to the funding formula have been suspended this week.
West Yorkshire’s funding suffers unfairly for being a metropolitan county and even Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners have condemned the formula and threatened legal action, dispelling the myth that condemning these ‘reforms’ is politically motivated.
There is a stark warning from the local Police Federation: By the end of this decade we will have 40 per cent fewer police officers than it did at the start. Our police force will be attempting to meet 21st century demands with 1970s staffing levels.
This worries me and I know it worries local people. I will do all I can to resist these cuts.