VIOLENT CRIME UP AS POLICE OFFICERS DOWN
...yet the government says huge rise is not due to cuts
VIOLENT crime has nearly tripled across Greater Manchester since austerity began – but the government says it’s up to our struggling police force to sort it out.
Ministers have denied the huge increase is down to the sheer numbers of frontline officers being cut.
A 114-page plan to tackle violent crime, released by the government on Monday, does not refer to police resources being slashed.
That is despite a Home Office report, leaked just hours earlier, stating cuts to officer numbers has ‘likely contributed’ to a rise in serious violent crime across the country.
Greater Manchester leaders say 50 more officers will soon be recruited, but only because residents will fund them through a council tax hike.
The government, they add, has left them to tackle the rise in crime while continuing to cut funding.
Since 2010, GMP has lost 2,000 officers and 1,000 staff.
In that time, violent crime has nearly tripled in Greater Manchester.
In the past year alone, there has been a 61 per cent rise.
The region’s policing chief says the correlation between budget cuts and rising crime is ‘obvious’. But government ministers say tackling violent crime is not just about police budgets, insisting it is not a problem you can ‘arrest your way out of’.
Figures show 86,511 violent crimes were reported in Greater Manchester in the year to September 2017 – a 161 per cent rise from the 33,196 reports in the year ending September 2009.
Over the same period, the full-time equivalent number of police officers at the force fell by a quarter from 8,261 to 6,237.
The figures come as leaked Home Office documents suggested a possible link between rising crime rates and falling police numbers.
It states resources dedicated to tackling serious violent offences ‘have come under pressure and charge rates have dropped’.
“This may have encouraged offenders,” the document, obtained by The Guardian newspaper, adds.
Though funding cuts were unlikely to be the factor that triggered an increase in serious violence, the report states depleted police resources ‘may be an underlying driver that has allowed the rise to continue’.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said it was a ‘mistake’ to blame police numbers alone for the rise, claiming forces with the largest reductions in officers numbers had not seen the sharpest rises in crime.
She claimed not to have seen the leaked report.
Greater Manchester’s deputy mayor for policing and crime Bev Hughes insisted ‘massive’ cuts to GMP’s budget have contributed to rising crime in the region. “This is something we have been saying for some time, while the government continues to bury its head in the sand,” she said. “GMP has lost £250m, 2,000 officers and 1,000 staff since 2010 – and we are now facing an eighth year of real-term cuts. As demand rises and crimes become increasingly complex, our police and criminal justice system is creaking.”
GMP’s funding is set to increase by £10.6m this year following a rise in the policing element of council tax bills. The extra cash will fund 50 police officers and maintain PCSO numbers across the region.
The government points out it gave local authorities the power to increase the precept.
But Ms Hughes said ministers have simply passed the problem to Greater Manchester leaders and taxpayers. “We have been left with no real choice but to ask local people to fill the gap,” she added. “While we have committed to use the additional money raised through council tax to recruit at least 50 additional police officers and maintain PCSO numbers, this only serves to mitigate the worst effects of these continued cuts.
“It is not a sustainable solution.”
Earlier this year, GMP Chief Constable Ian Hopkins admitted the force was ‘just not able to get to every single crime and investigate every single crime to the degree the public would wish us to’.
He denied the force had lost control of the streets but said cuts meant dealing with ‘murders, serious sexual offences and terrorism’ had to take priority over investigating lesser crimes.
Last month, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that GMP ‘requires improvement’.
Officers fail to attend incidents quickly enough and initial investigations are not always good enough, its report said.
But policing minister Nick Hurd said tackling serious violent crime was not simply down to funding. Speaking during a visit to Manchester, he said: “We can’t simply say cuts to the police budgets have led to an increase in the kind of serious violent crime that is horrifying us all. It’s not that simple.
“We’re looking at a very serious issue here as to why we’re seeing this spike in serious violent crime – why we’re seeing increasingly younger and younger children getting sucked into criminal behaviour and violence.
“To simply just say ‘well this is all a result of police cuts’ is far too simplistic and simply not true.”
Mr Hurd, speaking at The Factory Youth Zone, in Harpurhey, said tough law enforcement and early intervention was vital, adding: “You can’t arrest your way out of this problem.”
He conceded forces were stretched, but said it was down to police chiefs to decide how to allocate funding. “It’s up to Andy Burnham and his team and working with the Chief Constable to decide how that additional money is spent,” he added.
Harpurhey councillor Pat Karney said the consequences of cutting 2,000 police jobs was clear.
“We are concerned about the cuts in neighbourhood policing causing serious social problems throughout the city,” he said. “Everyone in Manchester is against the police cuts apart from criminals. Criminals love this government because they cut the police force.
“We are close to a very dangerous period if these police cuts continue.”
Mr Hurd discussed the issue as the government launched its new £40m ‘Serious Violence Strategy’. Ministers came under fire after it emerged the review contained no analysis of any impact from reductions in officer numbers. The two-year plan aims to tackle violent drug-dealing gangs, knife and gun crime and to steer young people away from offending. An £11m ‘Early Intervention Youth Fund’ has been set up, while £3.6m will be spent on establishing a ‘National County Lines Coordination Centre’.
The government will also look at the changing drugs market and the impact of crack cocaine as a ‘key driver’ of violence.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the approach will focus on prevention and early intervention.
Greater Manchester Police declined to comment.