The headlines are telling us that crime is rising.
So here are ten brief suggestions from a retired police officer to suggest why that might be so:
(1) Falling Police Officer Numbers
There is an absolute connection between the number of police officers in England & Wales and the number of crimes committed in England & Wales. Whilst it is impossible to set out detailed cause and effect (crime is affected by a thousand different things), to deny the connection would be to abandon both common sense and professional experience.
There are 20,000+ fewer police officers in England & Wales now, compared with just eight years ago. That’s a heck of a reduction.
(2) Falling Police Community Support Officer Numbers
It’s not just the reduction in warranted officers. PCSO numbers have been decimated – with inevitable consequences for street visibility and local community engagement.
(3) Falling Police Staff Numbers
It’s not just the reduction in warranted officers and PCSOs. Police Staff numbers have also fallen very significantly – with inevitable consequences for a number of vital operational support functions, such as intelligence analysis and briefing.
(4) Falling Investment in Neighbourhood Policing
The strain on police numbers has had direct consequences for Neighbourhood Policing – with huge reductions in the numbers of officers and staff dedicated to local crime prevention and problem solving.
(5) Falling Investment in Specialist Police Resources
The pressure on police budgets has had hugely damaging consequences for the provision of specialist support functions – including dogs, horses and helicopters. Each of these is proven and effective in dealing with crime and each has been cut dramatically.
(6) Falling Police Proactivity
The loss of overall police numbers and the movement of officers and staff from the frontline into important investigative and safeguarding roles – combined with deeply misinformed and damaging rhetoric on the police use of Stop & Search powers – has had a significant impact on police procativity in all its forms.
(7) Rising Demand from Other Public Services
There has been an overwhelming increase in the demand placed on policing as a consequence of the huge gaps that have appeared in the provision of other critical frontline public services: Mental Health; Children’s Services; Youth Services; Adult Social Care… the list goes on. And every time the police pick up a responsibility that belongs to someone else, it has an immediate impact on their ability to fight crime.
(8) Government Policy
Each of these first seven factors is – unavoidably and undeniably – the direct consequence of conscious, deliberate government policy. And we are beginning to see the first indications of the inevitable long term costs of short term cuts. Crime is not down. Police reform is not working.
(9) Increasing Complexity
Policing has always been complex, but it has never been more so than now – particularly in relation to the investigation of cyber crime. The web – and the dark web in particular – has become the enabler of an avalanche of enormously sophisticated criminality and, the more complicated it gets, the more people, time and resources it will take for policing to respond.
It’s not just about policing of course.
(10) Beyond Policing
There are endless additional considerations that have little to do with law enforcement, but everything to do with the condition of the wider world – factors such as poverty and inequality and aspiration and hope.
Policing is in urgent need of new investment. Society is in urgent need of a helping hand.