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Express & Star comment: Police budget cuts beginning to show

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

The chickens are coming home to roost.

Remember what they said about cuts in the police budgets. What was it... oh yes, the front line would not be affected, and the cuts would be in the backroom services, not the "teeth." So nothing for the general public to get too worried about.

We are now seeing what cuts in police budgets and police numbers mean in the real world. There is a vast chasm between the number of crimes that are being reported, and the number that actually end up in court.

There are a variety of reasons, but one of them identified by senior officers is that there are not enough police to cope with the volume of work. They are The Few, battling against overwhelming odds.

Fewer than one in 14 crimes reported to West Midlands Police results in someone appearing before a court. In Staffordshire, it is one in 12, and in the West Mercia Police area, one in 10.

With figures like that, victims may wonder whether there is much point in reporting crimes in the first place. Of course, if they don't, then reported crime falls and an entirely misleading picture develops of levels of crime.

Detection rates for some classes of common crime are simply dreadful.

Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs select committee, hits the nail on the head when she says: “How can public confidence in the criminal justice system be sustained if fewer crimes are being dealt with and solved each year?”

Failures to bring cases to court do not necessarily mean the crooks are laughing all the way to their next unpunished offence. Police could, for instance, issue cautions or pursue restorative justice. Such resolutions are not generally perceived by the public as the iron fist of exemplary justice.

While, as you would expect, there are full investigations into the most serious cases, like murder, the bulk of crimes are those things which are minor in comparison yet which cause much misery for those affected. Dealing with them does matter.

The decline has been over years, so will take years to fix. Until it is, we shall have a criminal justice system, but one in which justice for the victims comes at long odds.

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