'Savage cuts' see number of traffic cops reduced by a third

Experts have questioned how new laws, such as the ban on using mobiles while driving, can be enforced with 30% fewer officers dedicated to policing roads. Pic: Jonathan Fleetwood/Blackball Media/PA Wire.
Experts have questioned how new laws, such as the ban on using mobiles while driving, can be enforced with 30% fewer officers dedicated to policing roads. Pic: Jonathan Fleetwood/Blackball Media/PA Wire.

The number of dedicated traffic police officers has fallen by nearly a third in 10 years - but one North East force is bucking the trend.

Experts have questioned how new laws, such as the ban on using mobiles while driving, can be enforced with 30% fewer officers dedicated to policing roads.

The Press Association submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to all 45 UK forces asking how many dedicated traffic officers they have compared with five and 10 years ago.

The results reveal cuts have accelerated in the past five years, with numbers falling 24% since 2012, while overall the number is down 30% since 2007.

In 2007 there were 3,766 traffic officers in the forces which responded. In 2012 that figure stood at 3,472. By 2017 it had dropped to 2,643.

A number of forces increased the number of traffic officers between 2007 and 2012, but as budget cuts bit these numbers were reduced between 2012 and 2017.

Some forces have 30% fewer dedicated traffic officers than five years ago, but Northumbria Police are bucking the trend.

Some forces have 30% fewer dedicated traffic officers than five years ago, but Northumbria Police are bucking the trend.

Hertfordshire (up 44%), Northumbria (up 32%), West Mercia (up 26%), Surrey (up 14%) and Sussex (up 11%) were the only forces to increase numbers.

Northumbria has 131 traffic officers today, compared to 101 back in 2007, though the figure has fallen from 171 in 2012.

In Durham, there are 56 traffic officers, compared to 86 both five and 10 years ago - a decrease of 35%.

In Cleveland, the figure is 69, compared to 79 five years ago and 72 back in 2007 - a reduction of 14%.

The AA said the decline could see more drivers getting away with crimes. A spokesman said: "We need more cops in cars, not fewer.

"The UK has among the safest roads in Europe, although the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads has started to rise after many years of steady decline. Maybe there is a link?"

He added: "Even senior officers have publicly expressed concern at the falling number of their colleagues."

Responding to the figures, the Home Office said effective road policing is not just dependent on dedicated traffic officers, while the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) pointed out that all officers are able to help traffic specialists.

Labour's shadow minister for policing and crime Louise Haigh, a former special constable, said: "These savage cuts will deeply alarm the public as reckless drivers will feel able to offend with impunity."

"There have been a number of new driving offences in the last few years, not least relating to phones and the new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

"The police don't stand a cat in hell's chance of pursuing and convicting people under these offences with ever-constrained resources."

Jason Wakeford, from road safety charity Brake, said: "On average, five people die every single day on our roads. This is unacceptable.

"The Government and police forces have to start treating road policing as a national priority and reverse the savage cuts to officer numbers."

The Home Office said deployment of resources was a matter for chief constables and crime commissioners, who "understand their operational needs better than anyone".