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Officer ratios not enough to cut crime, think tank warns

Uplift recruitment isn’t enough tUplift recruitment isn’t enough to reduce offending, a think tank has warned.

Policing strength is behind major European countries and not enough to tackle crime, a political think tank has warned.

In what is a clear blow to the government, the influential Social Market Foundation think tank said 70,000 more officers are needed on top of the 20,000 Uplift intake. And it calculated the cost would be £8bn of expenditure by central government and Police and Crime Commissioners.

As crime experts are beginning to warn of an increase in offending due to the cost of living crisis, a cross-party think-tank calculated that England and Wales now have 228 police officers per 100,000 people. 

The Social Market Foundation said that the relative lack of police personnel was contributing to falling public confidence in law and order in England and a failure to tackle growing forms of crime such as fraud.

The report is significant as the think tank is highly influential within Westminster. 

It argued the ratio of officers to population is now behind France (332) and Germany which has 298. The average across 32 European nations was 357.  

The SMF follows two major reviews into the future of policing which warned forces need more resources and specialists in order to tackle increases in cyber crimes and evolving threats such as County Lines.

Richard Hyde, SMF Senior Researcher said there is “a clear link between officer numbers and crime levels.”

He added: “The changing nature of crime – especially the growth in fraud – means policing is becoming more labour intensive. This implies a need for more police staff to keep on top of crime levels, let alone play a role in driving them down.”

The SMF analysis will bolster warnings from frontline officers.

The Police Federation warned at its annual conference last year that policing numbers won’t meet the rise in population which has increased by 5 million – or everyone in Wales.  Uplift will only bring officer numbers back to just below pre-Austerity numbers and forces have lost 20,000 support staff as well.

Fed regional leaders say officers are now one to 500 people and the combination of demands from the Crown Prosecution Service plus job shunting from councils and the NHS for issues such as social care and children missing from care is adding to demand.

And this week the Police Foundation warned the shortage of officers is beginning to impact on the government’s ability to get new legislation enforced.

It warned the new rules on mobile phone use behind the wheel will largely be ignored because there aren’t enough traffic officers to enforce it.

Research officer Ruth Halkon, said: “Education is only worthwhile if it is coupled with enforcement. Unless roads policing is effectively prioritised and is given the resources it needs to function effectively, people will still use their phone behind the wheel, just as they still speed and make hand-held calls, and people will still die on our roads.

The SMF calculated that to get to the European average, England and Wales would have around 213,200 officers in place across both countries.

If these extra officers had been in place in the year 2019-20, it is likely there would have been at least 1.4 million fewer crimes perpetrated against households and residents in England and Wales – with a gross savings to society of approximately £11.1bn.

Richard Hyde, SMF Senior Researcher, said: “We know that increasing police numbers can reduce crime rates, yet it is an aspect of policing that isn’t as prominent as it should be. We need a proper evidence-based public debate to identify the appropriate police numbers for maximising the impact on crime in England and Wales.”

“As we look ahead, police and policymakers must be alert to the way crime has changed and will likely continue to – the growth of online fraud alone has made tackling crime more complex, and thus more labour-intensive. We need more officers not only to stay on top of the current high levels of crime, but to reduce it substantially.”

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