Police cuts ‘set Hartlepool back a generation’ – officer numbers fall by 100 as crime rises by a third

PCSO Graham Handley with Barry Coppinger in Murray Street

PCSO Graham Handley with Barry Coppinger in Murray Street

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The fall in police numbers in Hartlepool risks turning tackling crime back a generation, the town’s MP has warned.

Iain Wright raised his concerns with councillors as they questioned police chiefs on how they are dealing with cash cuts and a reduced number of officers.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright

Cleveland Police has 100 fewer officers in its ranks than since before the reduction in Government cash, while crime is up by a third.

Between October 2014 to last September there were 8,188 crimes, compared to 6,146 in the previous year.

The issues led Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee to scrutinise top police officers.

In a written submission, Mr Wright said further financial pressures will have an impact on an “already under resourced and overstretched police service.”

The neighbourhood police officers and PCSOs who work in Hartlepool are committed and work to the best of their ability on a daily basis, particularly in terms of providing reassurance to the communities in which they serve, but in my view we risk the reversal of a generation of progress, returning us to an old-fashioned model of reactive policing.

Iain Wright

He is also worried about the reduction in Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), which is down from 193 six years ago, to 123 in March last year.

The meeting credited them with being the frontline, often knowing their patch better than police colleagues.

Mr Wright said: “The neighbourhood police officers and PCSOs who work in Hartlepool are committed and work to the best of their ability on a daily basis, particularly in terms of providing reassurance to the communities in which they serve, but in my view we risk the reversal of a generation of progress, returning us to an old-fashioned model of reactive policing.

“If we go down this road we are in danger of missing an essential part of crime prevention: the collection of information and intelligence, which must rely on neighbourhood policing teams.

“With the 21st Century problem of global terrorism this kind of work is of increasing importance.”

Police have said the reason for the rise in figures is down to a change in how crimes are now recorded and analysed and previous low rates.

However, officers conceded there had been a hike in criminal damage incidents and arson, with 294 incidents in the 12 months up to December.

They included two damage sprees, including one where younsgters removed up to 50 car badges, and another where drunks kicked off 15 car mirrors.

Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger told the meeting: “If we have to make any further efficiencies and effectiveness, that money will go into neighbourhood policing.”

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Simon Nickless told the committee he was committed to preventing crime, with “victims at the heart of everything that we do”.