Police cuts starting to bite, says Crime Commissioner

CRIME figures may be falling but cuts to the police are beginning to bite, according to the county's Police and Crime Commissioner.

CRIME figures may be falling in some categories but cuts to the police are beginning to bite, according to the county's Police and Crime Commissioner.

Although the number of burglaries, robberies and thefts across the county has fallen, Dr Alan Billings says that government-imposed cuts are starting to have repercussions.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics have revealed that from September 2014 to September 2015 overall theft offences fell in South Yorkshire with house burglaries falling by 17 per cent and burglaries in other buildings by 12 per cent.

The theft of bicycles has fallen by 16 per cent while other thefts, including theft from person and theft from a motor vehicle, have also seen a reduction.

However, the overall crime total rose by three per cent over the 12-month period, which includes a 46 per cent increase in sexual offences, a 23 per cent increase in violence against the person and a four per cent increase in shoplifting.

But police say the increase in sexual offences is because more people are now coming forward to report them.

Dr Billings said: “The latest national crime figures make it very clear that the years of cuts to police budgets are starting to have undesirable consequences.

“For years, crime has been falling. These figures suggest that last year crime rose nationally by 6.5 per cent. If this was to become a trend it would be worrying.

“The picture is better in South Yorkshire where the overall rate is half the national increase – 3.3 per cent – and less than the Yorkshire and Humber region as a whole – 9.5 per cent.

“The South Yorkshire increase is also smaller than the average across all similar police forces, some of which are as high as 19 per cent.”

Mr Billings said that the rise in sexual offences in South Yorkshire “to some extent reflects greater confidence people have in reporting them and also better recording”.

He added: “Against this background, it would be wrong to cut policing budgets further and this will be one of the factors I will take into account when setting the precept for the police service for the next financial year.”

Chief Supt Rob Odell said he hoped that the figures would show people that the police are doing their job.

He said: “We hope that the residents of South Yorkshire can feel reassured by these figures, particularly the fall in the number of burglary and robbery offences, two highly traumatic and intrusive crimes.

“The hard work of our officers, along with a number of campaigns around crime prevention and targeted operations, has helped to bring offenders to justice and we hope this has had a positive impact on our communities.

“Although the overall crime figure for this period rose by three per cent, we have continued to drive down other crime levels in key areas across South Yorkshire during a significantly challenging time in the way the force operates as we try to make significant savings.

“The increase in sexual offences being recorded is clear indication that victims and survivors feel more confident to report such dreadful crimes in the knowledge that they will be listened to, we will provide appropriate support and that we will thoroughly investigate what has happened.

“Our recording of violent crime has both changed and improved. We are capturing incidents from a wider range of locations including prisons and schools, which allows us to better understand and respond to the problem. 

“I want to reassure members of the public that we are continuing to focus our efforts on reducing crime and protecting the public and continue to encourage victims of all crime to come forward. We would particularly want to encourage victims of domestic and sexual abuse to come forward and report incidents so that we can catch those responsible and bring them to justice.”