Slashed police budgets mean victims of crime cannot expect the same level of investigation they did in the past, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird QC has said.
Dame Vera said neighbourhood policing and antisocial behaviour still remains a priority for Northumbria Police, but officers were being forced to ‘innovate all the time’ to maintain its service.
She told a meeting of South Tyneside Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee: “A difficulty for us is that we have to maintain public confidence that the force can respond if they’re in trouble.
“We certainly can’t say we’re at breaking point – and I’m not saying we’re at breaking point.
“A local authority can shut some libraries or pass them over to the community, but if a 999 call comes in you’ve got to go and the public has got to know that we will go.”
Dame Vera was outlining how the force had scaled back some its investigation work.
She said some crimes might not require an officer to visit in person, but evidence could be gathered by phone or sent in directly by the victim.
To illustrate this, she used the example of petrol theft from filling stations, which previously could have taken up a lot of police time.
“Now,” she said, “the garage will phone, the police will tell them that, if they’ve got the CCTV, keep it safe and ask for the car’s registration number.
“Then they’ll ring the owner and tell them to go and pay tomorrow or else we will be there.”
However, she added this would be determined on a case by case basis and that antisocial behaviour against vulnerable people, such as the elderly or those with learning disabilities, could warrant greater attention than other crimes, such as burglary.
She told the panel: “I think if we say our current budget is just less than £270million and we’ve lost £136.5million you can see what we’ve lost, but I’m not sure what impact that kind of figure has on ordinary members of the public.
“It may be hat we should be more proactive and say what we can do and what we can’t do.
“If there’s antisocial behaviour, which is not serious crime, I think police here very much know how important it can be to an individual.
“They will try and get there even though it’s not a serious crime.”
A National Audit Officer report published last month showed Northumbria Police has seen its real term funding slump by a quarter since 2010, the biggest fall in England.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service