By Dan Santy 03/08 Updated: 07/08 16:10
ALARM has been expressed at the further loss of police officers in Warwickshire.
Home Office figures reveal Warwickshire Police lost more officers than any other force, bar one, in the country, despite being England and Wales' smallest force. Warwickshire lost another 75 officers in the past year - chopping the total headcount to 802, compared to over 1,000 just four years ago.
The fall represents a drop of over eight per cent and is one of the highest experienced in the country, surpassed only by Derbyshire which suffered a ten per cent hit. Nationally police staffing is now at its lowest level since 2003.
The blow dealt to the county force has been met with anger by the Warwickshire Police Federation, the organisation representing rank and file officers.
Chairman Simon Payne said: "We read the Home Office figures with shock and alarm.
"The question now is who is going to fill the gap left, as it's only going to get worse. We expect nationally to have lost 15,000 officers by 2015.
"Morale within Warwickshire Police is already at an all time low. The thin blue line is being stretched and in some places has already been broken.
"It's very simple. The more cops we have, the less crime there is, and it works both ways so less cops of course means more crime."
Mr Payne also voiced concern about the 'privatisation' of the country's policing, questioning whether the cuts would pave the way for security firms like G4S to take over.
Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White told the Observer this week: “Protecting the public is one of my highest priorities and I will be raising these concerns to the Chief Constable to ensure that any reduction in officer numbers does not impact on public safety.
"I believe that all local officers, community organisations and the public need to work together during this difficult financial environment, to ensure that we reduce crime and make residents feel safe.”
In a statement, Warwickshire Police said it had no choice but to cut officer numbers due to budget pressures, and the alliance being set up with West Mercia Police aimed to minimise the impact of the reduction in officer numbers.
A spokeswoman said: "Warwickshire and West Mercia need to reduce their expenditure by over £30 million by March 2015, of which Warwickshire must reduce costs by over £10 million.
"It is not possible to reduce the costs of policing, where staffing costs account for around 80 per cent of the total budget, without losing posts."
CANDIDATES for the new Warwickshire Police Commissioner's job are at loggerheads over the impacts of dwindling officer numbers on crime in the county.
While Labour candidate James Plaskitt has slammed the slashing of police numbers as damaging crime detection rates, his Conservative rival Fraser Pithie has praised Warwickshire Police for driving down offences despite having less officers.
It comes at the same time figures released by the Home Office revealed Warwickshire Police had lost the second highest number of police officers in the last year due to budget cuts.
According to Mr Plaskitt, Warwickshire has the lowest crime detection rate of any of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.
Warwickshire's detection rate for the last year was 18 per cent, where the national average was 27 per cent. The figures relates to investigations into crimes which end with a charge, summons, caution, reprimand or final warning.
It is the first time Warwickshire has been at the bottom of the league table, added Mr Plaskitt.
"I have to ask why the sudden slump in performance? The only other change in Warwickshire police over this period is the fact that we are taking the biggest police cuts in the country. I think there’s your culprit."
But Mr Pithie welcomed an overall fall in recorded crime in Warwickshire since April, with figures from the Office for National Statistics showing offending had dropped by nearly ten per cent.
He said: "We are starting to see the benefits of Warwickshire’s new and modern policing model that enables a relentless focus of most resources on those that cause most harm. This shows it’s not about officer numbers, it’s how they are deployed that matters."
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