Cuts to police have ‘reduced our capacity to prevent and detect crime’, top officer says

Stephen Kavanagh, chief constable of Essex Police. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Stephen Kavanagh, chief constable of Essex Police. Picture: SU ANDERSON - Credit: Su Anderson

A lack of police funding should be treated “as a matter of shame” which is reducing officers’ ability to prevent and detect crime in the way they would like, a chief constable has said.

Essex Police chief constable Stephen Kavanagh said the amount of funding his force gets was “unacceptable” in a response to letter from Colchester MP Will Quince asking him to tackle a spate of crimes in the town.

Mr Quince wrote to Mr Kavanagh demanding extra resources be put into tackling aggressive begging and drug dealing in Colchester, which he believes is “rife”, as well as shop vandalism.

He said his lobbying of the government for a rise in funding had resulted in an extra 150 officers, including 12 more in Colchester, which he believes should be put to work on the issues.

“I and my constituents have had enough and do not feel adequate measures are being taken to address the issues which are putting people off visiting, shopping or investing in Colchester,” Mr Quince wrote.

The constabulary has joined forces Colchester Borough Council to launc a Town Centre Action Plan (TCAP) to crack down on anti-social behaviour in the town centre, with the council investing more than £240,000.

But while he acknowledged the extra resource Mr Quince referred to, Mr Kavanagh said: “We have had to cope with 600 fewer officers and 300 fewer PCSOs than we had in 2010.

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“For every police force in the country those cuts have had, and continue to have, consequences.

“They have reduced our capacity to prevent and detect crime in the way we would wish and reduced local visibility and problem-solving capacity.”

He said the force remains “committed, ambitious and innovative” and highlighted its crime-fighting successes, such as a 27% reduction in bicycle thefts, 20% reduction in burglaries and a 10% fall in rapes in Colchester in the last year.

“I am proud of what my teams in places like Colchester do every day,” he said in his reply to Mr Quince, which he also published on Twitter.

However he said the strain his officers are now under would have been “unimaginable when I began my career in 1985”.

He added: “Communities are entirely right to expect and demand that police do more about a local concern, but you know the funding constraints the force has had to work under for the past decade.

“I hope and expect that we all treat it as a matter of shame that Essex has the lowest funding per head of population of any police force in the country and trust that we all continue to work to address this unacceptable position.”

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