Since 2010, we’ve seen the police cut back, crime rise, and local people and communities pay the price.
That the government has only now quietly acknowledged the link between police numbers and crime levels, is frankly, astounding.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Prime Minister left West Yorkshire Police trainees and officers waiting around for hours – to the point that one cadet collapsed – so that he could make them the backdrop to a party political speech. The content of which the Chief Constable has confirmed he had not been made aware of.
But while the Prime Minister might see our police force as little more than political window dressing, I’ve been working locally with residents who are suffering the impact of his government’s cuts, and I’ve been meeting alongside them, and local police, to discuss issues across Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton.
Reports from local people have been of a growing incidence of crime and anti-social behaviour in our towns and villages – this covers burglaries, vehicle crime, theft and criminal damage as well as gang- and drug-related crime.
While police resources are undoubtedly stretched thin, the best way we can tackle these issues is by police and community working together, so I’ve been meeting with police, residents and local councillors to discuss how crimes are responded to and how we can work together to promote community safety.
Unfortunately, the reality is that despite recent recruitment drives, I’m told there are still around 800 fewer officers on our region’s streets than there were in 2009/10 and that neighbourhood policing has borne the brunt of this hit.
The Tories have overseen the collapse of neighbourhood policing, and the erosion of that crucial link between communities and police that is integral to working with communities in the fight against crime in all its forms.
It will take more than the Prime Minister’s political stunt to right the wrongs inflicted by years of austerity.
Even this new, albeit unspoken, acceptance that cuts were wrong, won’t restore police numbers to what they were in 2010.
And even if it did, that would still be ignoring population growth and the devastating damage done to public confidence in police, and to police morale, through years of being understaffed and under-resourced.
This is a situation that will not be easy to turn around – the Prime Minister could start by showing respect and support to our police – not wasting their time on political game playing.
Originally published in the Dewsbury Reporter and The Press