The chairman of the Police Federation says the government is “letting the police down”, as figures show violent crime has increased by 19% in England and Wales since September 2017.
“This epidemic in violent crime, it’s not just restricted to inner city areas. It’s of serious concern,” John Apter told Julia Hartley-Brewer on the talkRADIO breakfast show.
“Why this has happened? It’s a really complex answer.
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“I can’t allow the government to try and spin their way out of this, because they claim to be the party of law and order but they’ve dismantled law and order.
“There are 22,000 fewer police officers. My colleagues are struggling to cope, demand on those fewer officers has increased massively.”
Statistics show there are currently around 122,000 police officers in England and Wales - the lowest number since the mid-1980s.
Police spending has also fallen since 2010.
South Yorkshire Police was criticised last year for encouraging people to report 'non-crimes'
Hartley-Brewer suggested that, with there being such a squeeze on police numbers, they needed to prioritise crimes more effectively.
“Has there been too much focus on hurty-feely non-crimes?” she asked.
“Somebody sending a nasty tweet and six police officers turn up at their door, but someone shoplifts and they don’t even get a callout?”
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“When I was a police officer, I’d be deployed to kids arguing over who has the remote control,” said Mr Apter, and agreed that forces should pay less attention to minor, non-criminal incidents. “That’s the kind of thing police should say no to, and the police and really bad at saying no.”
He also called for more investment in policing, and more prisons to be built.
“You hear the argument of, ‘anyone with a six month sentence or less, just release them’,” he said. “I say build more prisons! There must be a consequence. It needs to start with an investment in policing. On a personal level, my colleagues are breaking. They’re vilified when things go wrong, and not thanked when things go right.”
In March last year, the government announced a £460 million increase in police funding for 2018/19, but the size of grants that individual forces get will stay the same. Some of that money is set aside for special grants for unexpected or one-off circumstances.
Police and crime commissioners are also able to increase council tax in their local areas to raise more money for the force.