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Police Numbers At Lowest Level For More Than A Decade

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Theresa May has been accused of being "out of touch" with local communities after figures showed the number of police officers serving in England and Wales hit its lowest level in a decade.

The figures from the home secretary's department revealed there were 131,837 officers in the 43 police forces at the end of September, down 4,001 or 2.9% on the previous year and fewer than at any point since 2002.

police numbers down

Labour says that cuts to policing are making it harder to "catch criminals and deliver justice"

The number of police staff was also down, dropping 4.9% or 3,406 to 65,992.

The figures come amid a period of upheaval for police as forces deal with 20% budget cuts and the Home Office ushers through a series of reforms which include a £4,000 pay cut for new starters.

Policing minister Damian Green said: "Our police reforms are working, crime is down 10% under this government and public confidence is up.

"We set the police a challenge - to cut crime while playing their part in reducing the country's record deficit.

"Thanks to the efforts of officers, the leadership of chief constables and our radical reform of policing that challenge is being met."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said cuts to policing were making it harder for officers to "catch criminals and deliver justice".

She said 30,000 fewer crimes were solved under the current government in the last year, including 7,000 crimes of violence against the person.

Ms Cooper said: "Under Theresa May's policies there are fewer police on the streets and fewer crimes being solved."

She added: "The home secretary is completely out of touch with communities. Thousands more victims are being denied justice, thousands more criminals are getting away with it, yet Theresa May thinks this is a good time to cut thousands more police.

pcso numbers

The number of police community support officer is also down

"There are fewer frontline officers, fewer officers responding to 999 calls and the police are less visible and available under this government. Theresa May needs to urgently rethink next year's police budget cuts and stop letting communities down."

The number of police community support officers (PCSOs) also fell, down 6.9% or 1,070 on the previous year to 14,411, while the number of special constables - volunteers - also fell 1.3% or 248 to 19,159.

Only one force - Surrey Police - saw an increase in its numbers over the 12 months to September, rising by 1% or 20 to 1,981.

However, Surrey had a local policing target to increase constable numbers after it underwent reductions in officer numbers between 2006 and 2009.

The biggest falls came in Dorset and Warwickshire, where police officer numbers fell 5.9% to 1,337 and 5.9% to 827 respectively.

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Steve Williams, Chairman, Police Federation of England and Wales, told the Huffington Post UK that the drop in police numbers meant the gap in policing per population head was even wider.

“We accept that huge advances in technology over this same decade have meant that many functions have been streamlined in terms of operational delivery and that we must always look at how we can do more for less," he said.

"However, these same advances have brought about whole new crime types such as cyber-crime. Hence, the stretch on police capacity has not reduced, merely changed in profile.

“The government must question whether a reduced police service that operates only on a cost basis is what the public expects. Effective policing encompasses much more than solving crime - areas such as road traffic accidents, mental health incidents, missing persons, intelligence gathering and simply providing visible safety and reassurance to the local community are equally important and officer dependent.“

Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) lead on workforce development, said: "With 80% of police budgets used on human resources and substantial cuts to policing budgets, it is not surprising that numbers of officers and staff have reduced.

"The service has risen to the challenge of dealing with significant financial cuts and reform.

"Chief officers have delivered the budget reductions asked of them while maintaining the protection of the public, demonstrating techniques of business transformation and change management which show the service is not short of talented and skilled officers and staff.

"Workforce morale is key during this period of change and ensuring our staff are rewarded and properly trained to do the job at hand is integral.

"Dealing with ambitious staff frustrated by the lack of promotion opportunities and ensuring the service continues to develop and nurture the brightest and the best that are truly representative of the communities we serve is one of the biggest challenges that we face."