The loss of hundreds of police officers from Lancashire’s streets has led to a rise in crime, a senior police officer has claimed.
Acting Chief Constable Chris Weigh says a loss of resources brought on by massive public sector cuts has contributed to a “worrying” rise in some offences.
He stressed crime as a whole across the county remains at “historically” low levels, but said trends show the number of serious acquisitive crimes, assaults without injury, house burglaries and vehicle crime were all rising.
Figures for 2011/12 show that, despite most crime categories falling, violent crime with injury showed an increase of 5.8% (605 offences), compared to the previous year.
In a frank admission to a meeting of Lancashire Police Authority, Mr Weigh said the increases are “significant”, and blamed the loss of resources as a contributing factor.
He added: “We are taking 513 police officers off the streets. Targeting capabilities have been hit.
“Operation Julius was designed to tackle burglary spikes last year. How much longer can you continue to deploy Julius-type operations when resources are falling?”
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Community leaders said the rise in offences was an “inevitable” consequence of the cuts.
In April this year, serious acquisitive crime rose 8%, house burglaries were up 8.4%, vehicle crime was up 6.4% and assault without injury was up 15%.
Mr Weigh said: ““There is a genuine real increase in offending. There is no doubt the courts are behaving differently. There is evidence that people are struggling to get people remanded in custody, and there are some new crime types emerging.”
Responding to Mr Weigh’s comments, Rachel Baines, chairman of Lancashire Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: “He conceded that crime is going up due to a reduction in police numbers, which is what we have been saying will happen for the past 12 months. It is the inevitable result. Officers are being hit from every angle.”
Fellow authority member Coun Shazad Sarwar said: “We are going to have to face the reality that criminals are getting a bit more confident, because there are fewer resources.
Despite the increases, however, Mr Weigh said the picture in Lancashire was still a very optimistic one. Compared to other forces in the region, average crime levels, serious acquisitive crime, house burglaries and robbery are lowest in Lancashire.
The force has the region’s highest detection levels. All crime in April this year dropped by 5%, despite the rises in some areas. Last year it fell by 3.1% overall.
Coun Sarwar added: “I don’t think people should get too concerned. Crime is still low. The frontline in Lancashire is still a lot better than other forces. There is a lot of positivity.”