VI­O­LENT CRIME UP AS PO­LICE OF­FI­CERS DOWN

...yet the gov­ern­ment says huge rise is not due to cuts

Glossop Advertiser - - Front Page - Beth Ab­bit and Claire Miller

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.

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