Police Federation bosses today said they feared changes to how police handle crime could dent the public’s confidence in the force.
Lancashire Police now no longer deploys Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) resources to routine vehicle crime and routine criminal damage.
And it has changed the way it deals with lost property, minor thefts and non-domestic burglaries, dealing with some victims of crime over the phone instead of in person.
The changes come as the constabulary faces a major task of slashing its budget due to budget cuts.
Attendance to non-domestic burglaries and minor theft is now “dependant on a number of factors” and the force says “victims are spoken with and the action that is appropriate to be taken given the circumstances is explained by officers”.
The police say the approach supports “meeting the challenges presented by shrinking budgets” but say they know people “wish to report incidents and crime in a way that suits them such as online or over the telephone.”
The force has already identified £60m of the required savings, and have already taken £40m out of the budget, with a further £20m being taken out in this financial year (2014 -2015). It still needs to find about £19m to meet the savings target by 2017/18.
Federation chairman Rachel Baines said: “Quite often there’s a whole section of society whose only contact with the police is when they are a victim of minor crime.
“You can’t take 700 police officers out and carry on doing what you did before.
“It’s the thin end of the wedge. It’s not just about public safety, it’s public confidence.
“The officers want to provide the same level of service but they can’t.
“It’s government policy, the chief constable has got no option but to reduce the budget.
“The cuts have got to come from somewhere. The cuts are starting to show, they are only just being felt. Quite often there’s a whole section of society whose only contact with the police is when they are a victim of minor crime.”
Paul Hansen, 35, of Lyndhurst Drive, Cottam, Preston, was left angry and frustrated after he contacted police when his moped was stolen and after recovering the vehicle himself was told the police couldn’t send a CSI team out because of budget cuts.
The moped, which Mr Hansen was restoring, was stolen from outside his house and after reporting it to the police he found it himself, smashed up by the canal. Mr Hansen said the motor was “blatantly covered in fingerprints.”
He said he had no complaints about the officer he dealt with but slammed the fact the police wouldn’t come out as “pathetic.”
The dad-of-one said: “As somebody that pays taxes we are supposed to have faith in the police. Somebody can steal a motor vehicle or cause criminal damage and the police are not interested.
“I am still raging. There’s fingerprints on it. If they took the prints they would find the perpetrator. This is nothing short of embarrassing, not only does it show the police do not care, it also shows the blatant disregard for the victims of crime.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “Due to the Comprehensive Spending Review and subsequent restructure of the force, CSI staff and resources have reduced. As a consequence, it is necessary to prioritise the nature of work in line with risk and threat.
“Therefore Chief Officers made the difficult decision not to deploy CSI resources to routine vehicle crime, effective from April 1 2014.”
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Bates explained: “Every report of crime to Lancashire Constabulary is scrutinised by a police officer and a decision is made on the most appropriate course of action.
“This action could range from the immediate attendance of an officer, through to a telephone-based investigation.
“The police officer will decide on the most appropriate level of investigation by considering what information is available, by assessing the threat, risk and vulnerability of the victim and considering the ‘solvability’ of the crime.
“Not all reports of crime receive a police attendance, in fact some people prefer to be dealt with quickly over the telephone, but regardless of the crime ‘type’ they all go through this initial process of investigation.
“I would like to point out that we have not stopped dealing with non-domestic burglaries and minor thefts, however, the way we deal with them has changed. As with all crimes, we assess each of these types of incidents that come into us and from that, we decide whether there is a realistic chance of being able to solve the crime with the evidence available.”
Meanwhile Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw said while it is “no secret” that the force has “diminishing resources” but that the way “people wish to deal with the police is changing.”
He added: “The force has not stopped investigating certain types of crime, and every single crime which is reported is assessed individually to decide on the appropriate police response. Forensic evidence is not always available, and this has to be taken into account when decisions are taken around officer deployment. As part of my ongoing scrutiny of the Chief Constable, I am committed to ensuring decisions taken around deployment do not adversely impact on the trust, confidence and satisfaction levels of residents with Lancashire police.”