Government cuts and rise in demand blamed for Cleveland Police 999 response changes
Neighbourhood police officers across Cleveland are to be redeployed to help respond to 999 emergencies as the force looks to meet rising demand with its stretched resources.
Cleveland Police says it has experienced a 'significant period of increased demand' in the last year due to serious and major crime incidents and enquiries coupled with more 999 calls.
For a temporary period, neighbourhood officers are to help out by responding to urgent calls as and when necessary.
Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger, says it is linked to eight years of government cuts to Cleveland Police by £40m and a reduction of 500 police officers.
And Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said he welcomes the committment to respond to urgent calls more efficiently and effectively, but he does not want it to be at the expense of the good work the police do within their neighbourhoods.
Cleveland Police Assistant Chief Constable Jason Harwin said: “So that we can always respond to those calls from members of the public that are urgent, over the next few weeks we are asking our neighbourhood officers to also assist with ensuring that the most urgent calls are responded to immediately.
“The public rightly expect that if they call 999 Cleveland Police will always be there. We must use our resources in the best way possible based upon the calls for service that we receive.
“By asking our neighbourhood police officers to also be available to attend emergencies in their own local areas over the coming weeks, we have received support from local staff associations and partners who recognise that the more serious calls for help must always be responded to immediately.
“We must use the resources we have available to respond to those most at risk of harm and 999 emergencies.”
Asst Chief Con Hadwin added that neighbourhood policing teams will continue to be 'a fundamental part' of local communities and Police Community Support Officers will continue working in communities every day to engage with the public and help solve problems.
And he stressed neighbourhood officers will only deal with incidents in their current local authority area meaning the number of officers available in each area will not change.
Mr Coppinger said: “Over the past eight years successive Government cuts have seen the funding to Cleveland Police cut by £40m resulting in the loss of 500 police officers. That has had a very serious impact upon policing.
“This latest, temporary measure, allocating some neighbourhood police officers from patrol to emergency response, is the latest impact of those cuts.
“Under this model, police officers will continue to work in their neighbourhoods, though it’s absolutely right that they must prioritise 999 calls. Local commanders will be empowered to match policing services to the needs of the communities they serve.
“I remain absolutely committed to neighbourhood policing and I am pleased that our dedicated Police Community Support Officers will continue to patrol neighbourhood beats."
Mr Hill said: "Our Neighbourhood Policing Teams based at Hartlepool Police Station provide exceptional support to our communities, particularly in the area of crime prevention.
"In their own words they know the patch and the people; they are visible and work hard to deter crime and stop it from happening in the first place.
"Working as multi-agency teams they strive to keep citizens safe, and to lose such a resource would potentially have a negative impact on the work they do, and have done in the town."
He added: "Therefore while I recognise that there is a clear demand for the police to respond to urgent calls more efficiently and effectively, I don’t want that to be at the expense of the good work the police already do within their neighbourhood teams.
"I therefore welcome the commitment that numbers will not be affected in terms of officer availability in each area, and PCs will continue to operate within their own local authority area."
The impact of cuts to Cleveland Police hit the headlines in November when a national TV news report revealed just 10 police officers were allocated for the whole of Hartlepool on a Saturday night.
Residents in Foggy Furze have taken to patrolling the streets through the night in frustration at the lack of police cover.
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill has raised the issue in Parliament and Cleveland Police chiefs have called on the government for a 'fairer' funding settlement.
Mr Coppinger said forces all over the country had been affected by cuts adding “Nowhere are these issues more keenly felt than in Cleveland and I have asked on several occasions now to meet with the Home Secretary to discuss my call for fairer funding for Cleveland Police, I have invited him to Cleveland to see first-hand the very challenging conditions in which our officers are operating.
"I shall continue to press the Home Secretary on this point.”