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Nigel Hastilow: Moaning over police cutbacks a real cop out

By Nigel Hastilow | Nigel Hastilow | Published:

Please Mister Policeman, will you just stop whingeing and get on with your job?

Left, West Midlands Police chief constable Dave Thompson, has expressed concerns over cuts to budgets

David ‘call-me-Dave’ Thompson, the Chief Constable of the West Midlands, has been getting his retaliation in first as new figures demonstrate how woefully his police force is dealing with the rise in crime.

It’s not his fault. Obviously. He admits his ‘service’ sometimes falls below the standards the taxpaying, law-abiding citizen might reasonably expect. But that’s down to ‘the cuts’.

Dave is, after all, a leading member of the whining public-sector theocracy which fervently believes all society’s ills can be solved by throwing more taxpayers’ money at them.

He complains his workforce has been reduced by 2,000 officers since 2009 but he is being selective in the year he chooses. If you compare the number of front-line officers employed in 2013 and 2017, you find the number has fallen by just 456 from 6,652 to 6,196.

But are they really so thin on the ground they can’t actually tackle crime? The police’s latest figures reveal they ‘solved’ a trifling 601 burglaries out of 14,081 reported in the first six months of the year.

The best most of us can hope for from the police, if our house is broken into and ransacked, is a crime number for the insurance company and a lecture on home security.

That was certainly my elderly aunt’s experience when her house was raided at 10 o’clock at night and thieves made off with all her jewellery.

It’s certain this precious haul – not particularly valuable but holding a lifetime of memories – will never be seen by her again. And the police will never catch the burglars, who are free to terrorise other old ladies late at night.

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Admittedly, statistics can be manipulated. But it’s odd that ‘Dave’ claims the number of police officers has been cut by 2,000 when David Jamieson, our glorious Police and Crime Commissioner, contradicts him in his annual report.

Commissioner Jamieson says: ‘The efficiencies I have driven have allowed me to increase police officer recruitment to 800, 150 community support officers and 200 specialist staff.’

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson

My sums make that an extra 1,150 employees. And, according to the Home Office, the West Midlands Police, with 11,000 employees, has far more officers per head of the population than almost anywhere else in the country.

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There is one officer for every 228 people in the West Midlands compared with one for every 603 people in West Mercia and one for every 483 in Warwickshire. That doesn’t sound like a staffing crisis.

With burglaries up 19.7 per cent and robberies up 20 per cent, you’d think these would be the crimes the police try to tackle.

But you’re much more likely to galvanise plod into action if you report a ‘hate-crime’ (a made-up offence which depends entirely on the alleged victim feeling a bit insulted) than if you’ve suffered a break-in.

There is no doubt the Government has tried to squeeze greater efficiency out of police forces by reducing the funds available for them to squander.

And any reduction in the number of police officers at a time of rising crime is a problem for all of us, especially as the increase has to be a direct result of the fact that most offenders won’t get caught.

Even so, one glance at the West Midlands force’s most recent accounts shows the financial position is nowhere near as dire as Dave would have us believe.

They’ve spent £33 million doing up their offices, for instance. And they’re spending £77 million on what they call WMP2020, their ‘digital policing’ project.

According to the drivel, this ‘sets out how the force will look, feel and operate by 2020’ and includes such improvements as using Skype, introducing a new expenses system and developing a ‘THRIVE+ risk assessment tool to inform decision making including a new Grading Framework to send the appropriate resource to calls for service’ (whatever that means).

Much of the money for this is going to American consultants Accenture, who were recently forced to pay £77 million in UK tax after an investigation into its affairs.

Originally the cost to the West Midlands Police was £25 million but by February this year Accenture had been paid £33,887,572.60.

If money were really in such short supply, the police could always dip into their reserves. They claim Government cuts have cost them £145 million since 2010 and yet they have salted away no less than £95 million for a rainy day.

True, a bit of spare cash may be required in case there is some complete disaster. But not £95 million when crime is rising, detection rates are falling and the Chief Constable is moaning he hasn’t got enough money to do his job.

Luckily, it’s not all bad. The police are very proud that last year their Twitter account had nearly 9,000 followers and their Facebook page enjoyed 1,016 ‘likes’, an increase of more than 20 per cent.

Nigel Hastilow

By Nigel Hastilow

Express & Star columnist

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