The consequences of Tory cuts to policing have been severe: 21,000 officers, 16,000 police staff and 6,800 PCSOs have all gone. As a result of those choices — and they were choices — crime has seen rising nationwide year on year for the last seven years. Knife crime is at record levels, and police-recorded violent crime has more than doubled.
Ten years of unnecessary cuts have permanently changed the picture of crime. The former Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan police found that fraudsters “operate with impunity” because the police are not adequately equipped to investigate cases, and millions of victims are being failed.
In our towns and cities, ruthless organised criminal gangs now trade children as part of a profitable enterprise. The Children’s Commissioner estimates that 27,000 children between the ages of 10 and 17 are part of a gang.
We have soaring numbers of children who are in care, who are homeless or living in temporary accommodation, who are excluded from school, and who cannot rely on youth services or social services. These traumatic experiences have left them lacking in resilience and support and horribly vulnerable to the exploitation of gangs.
At the same time, harsh cuts across the criminal justice system have led to the lowest-ever prosecution rates across all offences. In the words of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, rape has been effectively decriminalised, as just 1.4% of offences are prosecuted.
There can rarely have been a more challenging climate for our police or a more fundamental failure of the last three Conservative Governments to keep their citizens safe and to deliver justice. In that context, it is extremely welcome to witness the Government’s recent conversion on the necessity of recruiting extra police officers. But it will take more than recruiting officers, as welcome as that recruitment is, to bear down on the complex picture of crime in this country.
What is more, under current plans officer numbers will not even be restored to 2010 levels. Resources will be allocated via the outdated and inadequate funding formula, which the Government have been promising to reform since 2015.
In the absolute best-case scenario, where 20,000 of the new recruits go to local forces, 22 of the 43 forces will not see their numbers restored to where they were 10 years ago. Greater Manchester will be down 1,000 officers, Hampshire down 700, Merseyside down 600, Staffordshire down 400, and the West Midlands down 1,100.
Across the length and breadth of this country, communities that will have heard the Prime Minister’s promise to restore police numbers are set to be badly let down.